Frisco City Council instructed staff to remove the dashboard during its work session Sept. 1 because the backlog of coronavirus test results submitted to the Texas Department of State Health Services by several commercial laboratories last month has led to spikes in the number of cases provided to the city.
Frisco Fire Chief Mark Piland, who also serves as the city’s emergency management coordinator, said the reliability of the state data is in question.
As the backlogged test results are added to the electronic reporting system, some counties are receiving notification of COVID-19 positive results that were previously diagnosed but not reported to the local health department at the time the test was completed. For this reason, the statewide confirmed case counts and some county case counts have recently included some older cases. DSHS works daily with laboratories to facilitate reporting to ensure local jurisdictions receive timely laboratory reports. Patients were notified at the time of diagnosis through a separate process, according to state officials.
Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said he believes providing the cumulative dashboard for the city is “doing more harm than good.”
“We’re putting out information that we know is bad and that is actually creating public perceptions of the situation that aren’t actually accurate,” Cheney said.
Piland said the city is not currently using any of the data provided by the state when making decisions.
“The data we’re really looking at is the hospital data,” he said. “We know that the data that we’re getting from the hospitals is clearly trending down both in admissions and percentage of COVID[-19] patients that are coming to the emergency department. That [data] we have high confidence in.”
Collin County commissioners add a disclaimer to its county level COVID-19 dashboard Aug. 18 that said officials did not have confidence in the accuracy of the data being provided by DSHS because of the backlog of test results. The county then revised that disclaimer on Aug. 24 to acknowledge DSHS is working to make the data as accurate as possible.
County Judge Chris Hill said DSHS was setting up a Collin County work group Aug. 25 to rectifying the county’s backlog of cases.
“They're going to be working to call everyone who's on that list that's currently active to determine whether or not they're still active or whether or not they're recovered,” he said during the Aug. 24 commissioners meeting.
Hill said the work group will be checking whether patients currently classified as active cases of COVID-19 have been symptom-free for 10 days so they can be reclassified as recovered. He also explained that if the group is unable to reach a patient after three attempts, they will be reclassified as recovered.
Frisco also announced it will stop sending the cumulative weekly COVID-19 report distributed via email.
While Frisco has removed the city dashboard from its website, it still provides links to COVID-19 dashboards from Collin County, Denton County and Texas Health & Human Services. Those links and additional COVID-19 news and resources can be found at www.friscotexas.gov/coronavirus.