The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases for some counties in the Rio Grande Valley is higher than previously reported after a backlog of test results were finally processed into the state’s reporting system.
Throughout the state, over 800,000 test results, from tests administered as far back as June or possibly earlier, were only just recently included into the Department of State Health Services’ official count of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
For the Rio Grande Valley, that meant there were 554 more confirmed cases — 349 of them in Starr County and 205 of them in Willacy, according to Dr. Emilie Prot, medical director for DSHS’ Public Health Region 11.
The delay, Prot said, was in the onboarding process which involves setting up accounts for laboratories and establishing that they are able to transfer files and data to DSHS in the accepted data format.
“Since March, the state has onboarded 330 labs,” Prot said. “Normally this process takes six to eight months; however, they’ve been able to onboard labs within a few weeks.”
“What they do have to do is (a lot of) back and forth with submitting files into the electronic lab reporting system and it might take several rounds to determine formatting issues,” she added. “There’s still another 46 labs that are still within this process of (the) testing stage so, right now, we’re getting some of the backlog cases and this will appear on our total confirmed cases.”
What’s important to note is that since results for these tests were backlogged, these cases are not considered new or active cases.
“We’re differentiating between the backlogged cases,” Prot said. “It’s not to be confused that there’s an artificial increase.”
She added that state health officials are still seeing around the same number of new cases on a daily basis but these numbers from the backlog are not included in that; those are simply reflected in the total count.
“We are working with our local officials so that they are able to communicate that to their constituents,” Prot said. “We understand that it’s difficult to have these jumps in numbers but we want to make sure that everyone understands that it’s not indicative of a jump in a total number of new cases.”
The addition of the backlogged test results brings the total number of confirmed cases in Starr County to 3,138, according to DSHS officials.
But as far as new cases of the coronavirus, the county reported 23 of them as of Thursday, for a total of 1,886 active cases. No new Starr County cases were reported on Friday as of press time.
So far, 140 people are reported to have died from complications due to COVID-19.
As previously mentioned, Willacy County was also affected by the inclusion of 205 backlogged cases. However, only 23 cases that the county reported on Friday are newly confirmed.
Their total number of cases is now reported at 1,142, according to DSHS but it’s unclear how many are considered active.
So far, 43 deaths there are counted as COVID-19 related.
Hidalgo County officials reported another 17 deaths and 191 new cases on Friday for a total of 1,250 deaths and 28,369 total cases.
Currently, 2,908 of those cases are active.
In Cameron County, public health officials reported 68 additional deaths among their residents which raised their total number of fatalities to 701.
The county also reported 103 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus for a total of 21,563. Of those, 4,897 are considered active cases.