Since our COVID-19 response began in January, our epidemiologists have been reviewing and analyzing COVID-19 data. Our data reporting regarding this novel disease continues to evolve as we collect additional data and learn about which data elements are most useful to understand how COVID-19 is impacting Arizonans. Over the course of this response, our Data Dashboard has evolved to display new COVID-19 data elements in an understandable format based on the various types of data the department receives.
COVID-19 is the first disease for which we require reporting of both positive and negative lab results. It’s also one of the first diseases, outside of sexually transmitted diseases, where public health actively encourages asymptomatic Arizonans to repeatedly get tested.
With the first few cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, multiple tests were performed to determine when the patients were no longer positive so they could be released safely from isolation. This resulted in a large number of positive test results for a very small number of cases. In determining how to present this initial data, our public health team decided to take a person-centered approach, which is the way we routinely present data on communicable diseases. This is where a person is represented once in the diagnostic laboratory results. A negative test will only be counted once per person, even if someone gets multiple negative test results. If someone tests positive, they are counted as a positive case moving forward. Individuals are only counted once in the case counts and laboratory testing numbers, even if they have multiple positive test results.
However, several months into the pandemic, we started seeing an interesting trend in our laboratory data. As we move further into the pandemic, we are seeing almost double the number of tests reported compared to the number of unique patients being tested. Simply put: more and more Arizonans are having repeated COVID-19 tests. This is positive news, as testing allows public health to identify and contain cases of COVID-19. As of today, we have had 4,065,390 diagnostic tests reported in 2,408,401 unique Arizonans. And, while today our dashboard shows 19,195 newly reported diagnostic tests in people who had never previously been tested, 37,732 total diagnostic tests overall were newly reported in Arizona today.
Today, we released a new update to our COVID-19 dashboard: We’ve added some new data points into a new laboratory section showing information about the total tests conducted, including the total number of newly reported tests, the total number of tests conducted overall, and the number of tests newly reported that day. Similar to the section showing unique people tested, you can also see the tests conducted per day and select to view the total tests conducted by each of the counties. It also displays the percent positivity using the results from all tests reported through electronic lab reporting (ELR). A person will still only be counted once in the case counts, regardless of how many tests they have taken. As you look at the new data points, compared to the summer, Arizona is exceeding the number of tests performed on a daily basis.
This new data provides additional information on laboratory demand and highlights the strong work of our laboratory partners to increase Arizona’s laboratory capacity. Even with the increased number of tests being performed in new patients and overall total in Arizona, our percent positivity continues to increase. This shows that COVID-19 is still actively circulating in our community. Everyone must take steps scientifically proven to reduce transmission: wear a mask and stay physically distant from others who do not live with you, stay home when you are sick, and wash your hands. Taking these steps will protect others and help us return to our normal day to day activities.