DOH temporarily pauses reporting negative COVID-19 tests results

The Washington State Department of Health will temporarily pause reporting negative coronavirus test results due to a data backlog, DOH officials said in a release Saturday. 

DOH is asking all state laboratories that conduct the highest volume of virus tests to temporarily stop sending individual negative COVID-19 tests results, and instead send an aggregated number of negative test results per day. The DOH website dashboard will continue to report daily positive cases, but not the total number of daily tests or percentage of positive virus cases.

This pause in negative results data will aim to alleviate some backlog of reporting within the department. DOH states on their website the pause will last for one week. 

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“We need to take this temporary step to ensure state and local public health officials receive positive results for all reportable conditions in a timely enough manner to carry out effective case investigations and contact tracing and to have real-time visibility of the incidence and trajectory of COVID-19 cases (positive results) as well as other reportable disease cases,” DOH officials said in the release.

Officials said the DOH website can receive and process approximately 33,000 total daily results but are currently receiving 30-50,000 test results, creating a backlog in the database.

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As of Saturday, officials say they received a combination of 53,000 positive and negative test results within the past 2-3 days. Other test results also included cases of notifiable conditions such as tuberculosis. Officials said test results are expected to increase as more testing sites are coming online across the state. 

The department is working to expand the database capacity to receive more results in anticipation of virus results surge. Officials say without the pause, data recording will be further behind.

DOH says the focus will be to continue efficiently reporting positive test results and to timely show up on the COVID-19 results page and the governor’s risk assessment dashboard. 
The department said they will also look at additional data from emergency hospital visits related to COVID-19 and federal government laboratories to “understand the scope, breadth, and direction of the pandemic.”