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Behind the numbers: Why Idaho’s “confirmed cases” numbers differ, depending on where you look

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COVID-19 Idaho

One media outlet has one number. Another outlet says something different. The State of Idaho provides something else.

It can quickly lead to confusion. Here’s why you might see different numbers.

“The state case counts are based on records submitted to the state by the local public health districts through Idaho’s statewide disease tracking system,” a release from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare notes. “The state does not count cases of disease the local public health districts have not yet determined to be confirmed though investigations and submitted to the state.”

Several media outlets, including the Idaho Statesman and KTVB are doing hand counts by using data from each of Idaho’s individual health districts around the state. The Statesman has an exhaustive rundown of each case statewide and what they know about it. As of this writing, the Statesman has tracked 77 cases, while the State of Idaho reports 50 cases. The data comes in at different times and with different reporting standards, which leads to some of the discrepancies in numbers.

Idaho Health and Welfare says reporting in this method is standard.

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“This is standard practice for all communicable diseases and done, in part, to ensure we count cases only among Idaho residents,” the news release said. “The state of residence may not be immediately clear, for example, if someone who is a resident of another state becomes sick in Idaho and gets tested in Idaho.”

The State has struggled with its online system at times, occasionally reporting cases in counties that don’t exist, or with lags in data updating.

(BoiseDev is relying on the official State of Idaho case, which is updated each day at 5:00pm. The primary reason is bandwidth: We don’t have the resource to do a manual count. The folks at Boise’s Clear Outcomes are also producing a daily chart of the cases for us based upon the official state data.)

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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