Williamson County experienced a sharp decrease in reported active cases of the coronavirus on Thursday following a change in the way the state health department reports coronavirus data.
Active cases in the county dropped from 1,044 on Wednesday to 306 Thursday. The rate of the spread also plummeted to 0.15%, the lowest ever, after hovering at 0.5% for weeks.
The Tennessee Department of Health changed the way it calculates coronavirus recovers by reducing the time frame for marking cases as “recovered” from 21 days to 14 days which contributes to the decrease in the county and across the state.
The metric change follows the health department’s confirmation last month that a number of active cases had not been marked as “recovered” due to an error.
“There are a small number of older cases that unintentionally were not captured by the recovered algorithm. We are working to update these case statuses,” TDOH spokesperson Shelley Walker said in August.
Until cases are marked as recovered, they are included in the state’s active case count.
At that time, Walker said the state’s metric was under evaluation.
More: Williamson County Schools board member questions COVID-19 data as state makes correction
The change also follows Williamson County Board of Education member Jay Galbreath’s criticism of the metric at a few public meetings, when he argued the state’s reported active case count was “overstated.”
Galbreath suggested that the state’s previous use of the 21-day time frame for active coronavirus cases was too long, in light of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that people with COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days.
Galbreath discovered that the state had erred in not capturing some of the active cases as “recovered.”
In late August, state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said the department was considering dropping the time frame of the recovery metric to 14 days in the state’s database.
Two school districts in the county use the state’s coronavirus data to decide whether schools are opened or closed, through a county dashboard created by the Williamson County Emergency Agency and Williamson County Schools.
The local metric tracks the number of active cases across Williamson County and calculates the coronavirus spread rate by calculating the number of active cases compared to the county’s total population of 238,412.
WCS implemented remote learning for the first two weeks of school when coronavirus spread reached “medium” (or between 0.5% and 1%) in Williamson County.
Galbreath has also argued that the state’s error in August could have affected hundreds of active cases, and in turn affected the county metric in its reopening plan.
How is ‘recovered’ defined?
TDH considers cases recovered when patients confirm their symptoms have resolved and they have completed the required isolation period, or 14 days after the cases were reported to TDH if the cases did not result in deaths.
TDH defines “inactive/recovered” as people who are(1) at least 14 days beyond their symptom onset date, or are at least 14 days beyond the first test confirming their illness if asymptomatic, and(2) are not deceased.
– TDH coronavirus dashboard
Williamson County’s population of approximately 41,000 (minus 17% of students enrolled in the online program) returned to school buildings over the past two weeks, according to a staggered schedule.
Kerri Bartlett covers issues affecting children, families, education and government in Williamson County. She can be contacted at [email protected], 615-308-8324 or @keb1414 on Twitter.