Data error mistakenly boosts county COVID cases to 31

Published 6:10 pm Monday, April 27, 2020

A technical error bumped Beaufort County’s positive COVID-19 cases up to 31 over the weekend, and mistakenly gave Hyde County its first positive test return.

The error happened Saturday and became apparent after North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated its website to reflect the inaccurate data. According to a press release from Vidant Health, the mistake stemmed from an electronic update from Vidant Health to NCDHHS.

“We determined this was a technical error affecting 122 results and the data feed issue has since been corrected. It is important to point out that the actual lab test results in Vidant’s electronic medical record were correct; there was a technical issue with transmitting data to the state. We are currently working with NCDHHS to update the data. We apologize for any confusion this has caused the state, local health departments and patients,” a press release issued Saturday by Vidant Health reads.

Because of the error, it appeared that Beaufort County’s numbers jumped from a cumulative 18 COVID-19 positive tests on Friday to 31 on Saturday. However, over the weekend only three additional positive cases have been added, for a total of 21 cases in Beaufort County. Six of those cases are currently active; the rest have recovered from the virus.

Beaufort County Emergency Services issued a notice on its Facebook page Saturday afternoon, and Beaufort County Health Director Jim Madson reached out to NCDHHS to track down the problem. Madson said he suspected there was an error when the numbers increased, because Beaufort County Health Department had received no phone call from NCDHHS reporting the positive tests. Madson said with every test that is returned positive, NCDHHS has made a phone call to let local health officials know about the result.

Hyde County has so far avoided positive test-returns for the virus, partially by limiting travel into the county to only those who live or work there. Hyde County Health Director Luana Gibbs issued a press release Saturday afternoon informing the public about Hyde County’s first positive test result. It was followed by another on Sunday morning retracting the previous statement, once the error had been identified.

In the Sunday press release, Gibbs said she was thankful Vidant Health issued the clarification and was relieved to know it was an error.

“We should use our heightened awareness from this as a reminder to be diligent in our efforts to protect ourselves from this extremely contagious virus,” Gibbs said in the press release.