Hamilton public health incorrectly reported total COVID-19 case count for two days

News May 10, 2020 by Sebastian Bron Hamilton Spectator

The city’s health unit reported having and 492 on Saturday. The correct numbers in the data should have reflected 478 on Friday and 482 on Saturday.

According to spokesperson Jasmine Graham, the inconsistency in the data stems from false positives being included in the total case count and a “refresh error” in public health’s tracking system.

The Spectator reported Friday that 10 false positive COVID-19 test results out of Ontario’s regional public health laboratory in Hamilton prompted the city to wrongly believe the Macassa Lodge long-term care centre was in outbreak.

Public health had already begun informing the 10 people from the east Mountain facility that they had COVID-19 on Thursday when the laboratory on Fennell Avenue West started to suspect something was amiss.

The city-run home on Upper Sherman Avenue was part of provincially mandated mass testing being done at all Hamilton long-term care centres.

“We got a call … alerting us they were having some concerns about whether in fact those samples may have been compromised,” said Dr. Bart Harvey, Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health. “(T)en positives in one batch for them was a number, not unheard of, but it was unusual. It got their attention.”

The 10 samples were sent by public health to the central lab in Toronto for re-testing using two different processes Thursday night and Friday morning. All of the samples came back negative.

The false positives were included in the city’s total COVID-19 case count of 488 when they were published online Friday afternoon.

Graham said the correct figure of 478 total cases was not reflected in public health’s data because the numbers posted to its website are accurate only as of 9 a.m.

At the outset of a press briefing on Friday afternoon, Harvey repeated the incorrect number of total cases without mentioning the false positives at Macassa.

The false positives came to light at the briefing when the Spectator asked Harvey about them after being contacted by worried families regarding the purported outbreak.

Harvey said Sunday that he was made aware of the false positive tests just minutes before the question, thus explaining initially stating the city’s incorrect case count of 488.

“We try to reflect the numbers as accurately as we know them as of 9 a.m. that day. Friday we did that,” Harvey said.

“Saturday, unfortunately, the concept of, ‘Wait a minute. We had 10 false positives the previous day, we need to take 10 out of this number.’ We’re working on a weekend, and it’s the first time this occurred where we’ve had what we thought were accurate cases but weren’t.”

It’s unclear why the case figures weren’t corrected on the city’s website Friday. Graham said the false positives were again included in the city’s numbers Saturday “as a result of a refresh error in the database.”

The misreporting of COVID-19 data, however small, can put a strain between the public and its health unit, said Colin Furness, an infectious control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto.

“The public needs to trust that public health knows what it’s doing; that it is collecting accurate data, not missing cases, and not terrifying people half-to-death with false positives,” he said, noting that inconsistent data is not exclusive to Hamilton.

“But when a public health unit makes a mistake and takes a long time to rectify it, and can’t explain clearly why that happened, it makes us doubt all the numbers. How many mistakes didn’t get caught?”

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Hamilton now sits at 488, an increase of 10 over the weekend from the correct figure of 478 Friday. There are also five presumptive cases and 348 cases resolved, approximately 71 per cent.

Two outbreaks were declared over at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, where an inmate tested positive on April 24, and at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in the 6 Mary Grace unit, where six staff tested positive on April 24.

Hamilton public health incorrectly reported total COVID-19 case count for two days

The error stemmed from false positives and a “refresh error” in the city’s database

News May 10, 2020 by Sebastian Bron Hamilton Spectator

The city’s health unit reported having and 492 on Saturday. The correct numbers in the data should have reflected 478 on Friday and 482 on Saturday.

According to spokesperson Jasmine Graham, the inconsistency in the data stems from false positives being included in the total case count and a “refresh error” in public health’s tracking system.

The Spectator reported Friday that 10 false positive COVID-19 test results out of Ontario’s regional public health laboratory in Hamilton prompted the city to wrongly believe the Macassa Lodge long-term care centre was in outbreak.

Public health had already begun informing the 10 people from the east Mountain facility that they had COVID-19 on Thursday when the laboratory on Fennell Avenue West started to suspect something was amiss.

Related Content

The city-run home on Upper Sherman Avenue was part of provincially mandated mass testing being done at all Hamilton long-term care centres.

“We got a call … alerting us they were having some concerns about whether in fact those samples may have been compromised,” said Dr. Bart Harvey, Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health. “(T)en positives in one batch for them was a number, not unheard of, but it was unusual. It got their attention.”

The 10 samples were sent by public health to the central lab in Toronto for re-testing using two different processes Thursday night and Friday morning. All of the samples came back negative.

The false positives were included in the city’s total COVID-19 case count of 488 when they were published online Friday afternoon.

Graham said the correct figure of 478 total cases was not reflected in public health’s data because the numbers posted to its website are accurate only as of 9 a.m.

At the outset of a press briefing on Friday afternoon, Harvey repeated the incorrect number of total cases without mentioning the false positives at Macassa.

The false positives came to light at the briefing when the Spectator asked Harvey about them after being contacted by worried families regarding the purported outbreak.

Harvey said Sunday that he was made aware of the false positive tests just minutes before the question, thus explaining initially stating the city’s incorrect case count of 488.

“We try to reflect the numbers as accurately as we know them as of 9 a.m. that day. Friday we did that,” Harvey said.

“Saturday, unfortunately, the concept of, ‘Wait a minute. We had 10 false positives the previous day, we need to take 10 out of this number.’ We’re working on a weekend, and it’s the first time this occurred where we’ve had what we thought were accurate cases but weren’t.”

It’s unclear why the case figures weren’t corrected on the city’s website Friday. Graham said the false positives were again included in the city’s numbers Saturday “as a result of a refresh error in the database.”

The misreporting of COVID-19 data, however small, can put a strain between the public and its health unit, said Colin Furness, an infectious control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto.

“The public needs to trust that public health knows what it’s doing; that it is collecting accurate data, not missing cases, and not terrifying people half-to-death with false positives,” he said, noting that inconsistent data is not exclusive to Hamilton.

“But when a public health unit makes a mistake and takes a long time to rectify it, and can’t explain clearly why that happened, it makes us doubt all the numbers. How many mistakes didn’t get caught?”

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Hamilton now sits at 488, an increase of 10 over the weekend from the correct figure of 478 Friday. There are also five presumptive cases and 348 cases resolved, approximately 71 per cent.

Two outbreaks were declared over at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, where an inmate tested positive on April 24, and at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in the 6 Mary Grace unit, where six staff tested positive on April 24.

Hamilton public health incorrectly reported total COVID-19 case count for two days

The error stemmed from false positives and a “refresh error” in the city’s database

News May 10, 2020 by Sebastian Bron Hamilton Spectator

The city’s health unit reported having and 492 on Saturday. The correct numbers in the data should have reflected 478 on Friday and 482 on Saturday.

According to spokesperson Jasmine Graham, the inconsistency in the data stems from false positives being included in the total case count and a “refresh error” in public health’s tracking system.

The Spectator reported Friday that 10 false positive COVID-19 test results out of Ontario’s regional public health laboratory in Hamilton prompted the city to wrongly believe the Macassa Lodge long-term care centre was in outbreak.

Public health had already begun informing the 10 people from the east Mountain facility that they had COVID-19 on Thursday when the laboratory on Fennell Avenue West started to suspect something was amiss.

Related Content

The city-run home on Upper Sherman Avenue was part of provincially mandated mass testing being done at all Hamilton long-term care centres.

“We got a call … alerting us they were having some concerns about whether in fact those samples may have been compromised,” said Dr. Bart Harvey, Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health. “(T)en positives in one batch for them was a number, not unheard of, but it was unusual. It got their attention.”

The 10 samples were sent by public health to the central lab in Toronto for re-testing using two different processes Thursday night and Friday morning. All of the samples came back negative.

The false positives were included in the city’s total COVID-19 case count of 488 when they were published online Friday afternoon.

Graham said the correct figure of 478 total cases was not reflected in public health’s data because the numbers posted to its website are accurate only as of 9 a.m.

At the outset of a press briefing on Friday afternoon, Harvey repeated the incorrect number of total cases without mentioning the false positives at Macassa.

The false positives came to light at the briefing when the Spectator asked Harvey about them after being contacted by worried families regarding the purported outbreak.

Harvey said Sunday that he was made aware of the false positive tests just minutes before the question, thus explaining initially stating the city’s incorrect case count of 488.

“We try to reflect the numbers as accurately as we know them as of 9 a.m. that day. Friday we did that,” Harvey said.

“Saturday, unfortunately, the concept of, ‘Wait a minute. We had 10 false positives the previous day, we need to take 10 out of this number.’ We’re working on a weekend, and it’s the first time this occurred where we’ve had what we thought were accurate cases but weren’t.”

It’s unclear why the case figures weren’t corrected on the city’s website Friday. Graham said the false positives were again included in the city’s numbers Saturday “as a result of a refresh error in the database.”

The misreporting of COVID-19 data, however small, can put a strain between the public and its health unit, said Colin Furness, an infectious control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto.

“The public needs to trust that public health knows what it’s doing; that it is collecting accurate data, not missing cases, and not terrifying people half-to-death with false positives,” he said, noting that inconsistent data is not exclusive to Hamilton.

“But when a public health unit makes a mistake and takes a long time to rectify it, and can’t explain clearly why that happened, it makes us doubt all the numbers. How many mistakes didn’t get caught?”

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Hamilton now sits at 488, an increase of 10 over the weekend from the correct figure of 478 Friday. There are also five presumptive cases and 348 cases resolved, approximately 71 per cent.

Two outbreaks were declared over at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, where an inmate tested positive on April 24, and at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in the 6 Mary Grace unit, where six staff tested positive on April 24.