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COVID-19 case numbers: Why the delay in reporting?

Assistant Division Director of Communicable Disease Stephanie Dunkel
by Stephanie Dunkel03/31/2020 5:10 p.m.
Updated: 03/31/2020

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. But reporting those numbers has been delayed. 

The state’s electronic disease surveillance system, the Washington Disease Reporting System (WDRS), is currently experiencing slowdowns. When it returns to full operation, case numbers statewide may jump.

Usually, the WDRS only reports positive results. During the pandemic, WDRS is also tracking negative results for COVID-19. This volume is overwhelming the tool.

The Washington State Department of Health is investigating solutions. In the meantime, case count and testing numbers statewide are lagging. But testing continues uninterrupted. 

In Pierce County, we’re trying to bridge the WDRS reporting gap by receiving positive test results faxed directly from some labs.

Increased testing means higher numbers.

You may also see COVID-19 cases spike in your community as more test results come in. Test results take time to analyze and report. As more people are tested, more test results are reported. Sometimes they come through in groups rather than spread out over days.

You might wonder: Is staying at home really helping? Shouldn’t the number of cases decrease? 

Rest assured: Staying home is a necessary step to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself, others and those who are most vulnerable.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases will continue to rise. We don’t know how big the increase will be. But if we continue to stay home, we can keep the spike small. The number of cases will eventually level off. 

Read more about Gov. Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order and what it means for you

Assistant Division Director of Communicable Disease Stephanie Dunkel

by Stephanie Dunkel

Stephanie helps lead our work to keep your family safe from communicable diseases.


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