Kentucky Will Change How It Calculates Positivity Rate Starting Monday

Oct 15, 2020

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported 776 new coronavirus cases during his Tuesday briefing, bringing the state's total number of cases to 81,691. The governor also reported a 4.59% positivity rate, but how the state calculates that metric is about to change.

The state's public health commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack, walked through how that calculation will be done differently. 

More than 90% of all COVID-19 tests conducted in Kentucky are polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests, according to Stack. Starting Monday, the state will only use results from PCR tests to calculate the positivity rate, no longer pulling antibody or rapid-point-of-care test results into the mix.

"Those are the gold standard," Stack said of the PCR tests. "Those are the most reliable for finding active disease in currently-infected people."

He said the state will also "transition to using only electronic lab reports."

For the week of Oct. 2 – 8, more than 55% of the state's PCR test results came directly to Kentucky's disease surveillance software through an automated feed, averaging about 8,500 electronic daily lab reports, Stack said, adding that this will increase as the state continues to onboard more labs into this process. 

"It's a geographically distributed sampling. It is a large sampling, and it is [a] more than adequate representation for our test positivity rate calculation," Stack said. "So we feel very good about this." 

The transition to doing this all electronically will also filter out the "historical lab reports," Stack continued, so that it captures just the seven-day picture.

Stack said Kentuckians should look at the incidence rate, rather than the positivity rate, to best understand how prevalent the disease is in their communities. 

Beshear's Health Update

Beshear said he and his family tested negative again following a possible exposure to the virus Saturday, after a member of his security detail tested positive for COVID-19. The first family of Kentucky has been quarantining since. 

"We know that it can take a while for the virus to manifest and so we'll be tested, I believe on Friday, again," he said.

Beshear said the member of his security detail is experiencing "mild flu-like symptoms. He's gonna be okay." 

While the governor was feeling optimistic about his family's health, he said that hospitalizations for COVID-19 cases have increased, with 704 Kentuckians currently in the hospital as compared to 589 two weeks ago.

The governor also reported 14 more deaths from the virus. That puts Kentucky’s death toll at 1,269. 

"It's a big number, and these days are hard when we've had this amount of loss," Beshear said. 

This article first appeared on WFPL. For more like this, visit wfpl.org now.