Infectious diseases and clinical pharmacology expert Dr. Benjamin Co has been thankfully breaking down coronavirus numbers in his personal blog since the outbreak started. The perspective he provides is informative, and comforting in those who are craving for a clear picture of how we are faring against the virus. Dr. Co will share daily updates and analysis of the Department of Health reported numbers with ANCX.
So the Department of Health has changed its way of reporting.
They now divide confirmed cases into “fresh cases” (test results released to patient within the last three days) and “late cases” (as test results released to patient more than four days). There should be a good explanation for using three days as the “cut-off” to consider a case as “fresh” or “late.”
This revision that began May 28 has caused a lot of undue confusion to the public. Taking back discombobulated information and later giving reasons for the sudden “surge” in data as being induced by “backlogs” and “repatriates,” as the Health Agency has done, is a bad way of providing a daily brief to the public. In any communication strategy, the agency must first understand the information they dish out prior to releasing data that they will be scrambling over the morning after. From my end, this kind of press release just made the IATF and the Office of the President look disoriented. You can’t blame the public for being confused and irritated, and you can’t blame them when they demand an explanation. After all, the pronouncement that we’re going into GCQ in a few days is unsettling given that the number of cases, fresh or stale, has now breached the 1,000 mark!
The backlog and additional repatriate data are understandable. We even expect more cases with increased testing. But it doesn’t make sense why the three-day cut-off was decided the other day. With so much backlog, why wasn’t this taken into consideration in the past weeks? What does that say about all the information we’ve been collecting from Day 1?
This flip flopping in information is critical because this kind of information questions the integrity of data from the Health Agency—more so during a crisis! People are asking if there more that they’re hiding and are the deaths expected to skyrocket to the hundreds overnight? And there are conspiracy theories that the government is probably hiding more information than what is already out there. The best way to create paranoia is to provide very bad informatics. One cannot blame critics in pointing out that the IATF and other decision makers who approved the GCQ based it on massively outdated data.
Of the 1,046 cases reported yesterday, only 674 had tagged information. Six hundred twenty cases in Luzon, 34 in Visayas, and 20 in Mindanao.
A total of 86 cities in the Philippines had at least one case yesterday. Fifteen regions all reported at least one case and there were 222 repatriates that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. As to which ones were three days, and which one were past three days is anybody’s guess.
Top ten cases by region and by city. Note that this is not the full list as only the top 10 are indicated here.
If there were only 46 “fresh cases,” there should at least be a separate graph or chart on details of the “fresh cases” so that it would guide LGUs and the people on where these old cases are still coming from, and where the new cases are.
Based on region, here’s the breakdown of the top 10 (including repatriates):
And based on city, here’s the breakdown of the top 10:
How are we doing in testing?
We’re averaging 7,800 tests a day for the last seven days. Like case reporting, we have our peaks and troughs. There are 1,635 samples in the backlog (so far). This means this is the number of samples that have not yet been processed as of reporting time.
Speaking of latency, we’re doing poorly as well in the duration for the agency to announce a death or recovery.
As of yesterday, the deaths are publicly announced almost 12 days after the patients died. As a matter of fact, more than half of the death announcements were almost two weeks back (some as long as two months). [Note: Of the 942 publicly announced deaths, only 757 had actual dates of deaths. Of these, 507 died before they were announced to have positive results. Hence, the data points were dropped. That means that of the remaining 250 cases, more than half were announced after almost two weeks.
The good news? With more cases recorded, our fatality rate is now lower at 5.66 percent. And we’re lower now at number 35 in terms of death rate. While recovery rate isn’t a major issue, we’ve also managed to go much lower from 131 to 138 among 165 countries that have reported more than 50 cases.
Moving forward, as we adjust to the “new normal” in the way the Health Agency reports, we shall report the data that come in this section. The Brief will remain as information to summarize the daily data that comes in from the world and the Department of Health.
I wonder what surprise awaits us today.