State health officials aim to fix COVID-19 data errors after misreported surge in new cases

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Nevada State Public Health Laboratory director Dr. Mark Pandori talks with the RGJ about antibody testing a more during an interview in his office . Reno Gazette Journal

Nevada now requiring labs to report test results within 24 hours

Nevada health officials say they’re working to prevent future coronavirus data-reporting mistakes after the Southern Nevada Health District misreported a record-shattering number of new cases Saturday.

The Las Vegas-based health district disclosed a shocking surge of 971 new cases over the weekend, by the far the largest single-day increase seen since the start of the pandemic. Hours later, the district confirmed nearly two-thirds of those cases were actually from lab reports dated on June 23 and June 24, an admission that prompted no shortage of blowback from political pundits and longtime skeptics of the state’s coronavirus data. 

COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said the state has since updated its testing guidelines to require that labs report all new test results within a 24-hour period. 

More: Coronavirus updates: Clark County surge in cases due to delay in lab reporting, health district says

Related: Sisolak mandates all Nevadans, visitors wear masks while in public, including businesses

“The information comes in from the health districts around the state and in this case the SNHD provided data that was probably about three times more than the number of cases intended to be reported,” Cage said on a Monday morning conference call with reporters. “It was a reporting error … We’re continuing to monitor that and looking for ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Cage earlier said that a number of Nevada’s new coronavirus cases can be attributed to the state’s beefed-up testing and virus-tracing capabilities, but he emphasized that social distancing and Gov. Steve Sisolak’s new statewide mask-wearing mandate will continue to play a crucial role in the ongoing fight against the virus. 

He said confirmed virus-related hospitalizations have been on an upward trend since May 31, though use of hospital ventilators and intensive care unit beds remains “pretty stable.” 

Cage said more than half of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are between the ages of 22 and 49, a younger-than-expected demographic officials said they were monitoring closely. 

Monday’s call was the first in a new series of daily Q-and-A’s hosted by Cage and Deputy Administrator of Community Health Services Julia Peek.

The Silver State has seen a record-setting spike in new coronavirus cases since casinos reopened on June 4. Officials reported 734 new cases of the disease on Monday, the second-highest mark since the outbreak began. Four additional deaths were reported, bringing the total number of virus-related deaths to 504.

James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here

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