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Reynolds' Office: State Fixing Coronavirus Data Problem

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds removes her face mask before speaking at a news conference on the state's guidance for returning to school in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Des Moines.
Charlie Neibergall
The error has resulted in many positive coronavirus tests being recorded as occurring much earlier in the year.

A spokesperson for Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state of Iowa is fixing a major problem with its coronavirus data Wednesday.

The state has been recording some new coronavirus cases as occurring weeks or months earlier, skewing Iowa’s data.

“In an effort to report the number of individuals tested without duplicating results from those who were tested multiple times, an individual’s most recent test result, whether positive or negative, was unintentionally attributed to the date of their first test result,” governor’s office spokesperson Pat Garrett said in an email. “The state of Iowa is adjusting its case reporting to reflect the most recent lab reporting date and not the date of the first test result.”

Dana Jones, a nurse practitioner in Iowa City, noticed discrepancies in the state’s coronavirus data and asked the Iowa Department of Public Health about it. A state epidemiologist confirmed the backdating problem in an email. Bleeding Heartland first reported Jones’ findings Monday.

Garrett said the problem should be fixed Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the graph of positive cases on the state’s coronavirus website looked different than earlier in the day. A preliminary comparison of the new case numbers with data previously saved by Jones shows the state has adjusted many daily case counts by dozens or even hundreds, in both directions.

The curve showing Iowa’s 14-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases also has a slightly different shape.

State officials have not said how many cases were given the wrong date.

The state’s list of 14-day average test positivity—a metric that the state is using to govern school reopening—has also changed significantly since Tuesday.

Garrett said nearly 80 percent of counties will see a decrease in their positivity rate.