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  • COVID-19 zip code data should be viewed cautiously

    Apr 13, 2020 | Read More News
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    File: medical equipmentOn April 12, the Arizona Department of Health Services updated its COVID-19 dashboard to include additional information about cases and deaths, more detailed demographic information, as well as case counts broken down by zip code. The link to that site is provided on Pima County’s COVID-19 Health Information and Resources website.

    This important information gives a simplified snap shot of the impacts of COVID-19 statewide and in Pima County. There are a few things the Health Department suggests the public note while looking at this data, especially when trying to decide what it means to the level of risk for a given age range, ethnicity or zip code.

    Remember that the data we are seeing now only reflects individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. While more testing is being done every day, the limitations in testing have meant that most tests so far have only been done for those who are very sick, are known contacts of an already confirmed case, or are healthcare workers. This means that the map may reveal where concentrations of people who got tested live – not necessarily where the risk of coming in contact with the virus is higher. This also means that for every confirmed case on a map, there are probably dozens of people who have not been tested but have the virus, and do not live in that zip code.

    In addition, most testing right now is being done through commercial labs, which can take, on average, one week to be reported. Because of this, when new data is posted we are really looking at infections that have occurred weeks ago and thus, may not be representative of the current risk in our community.

    Zip code counts include anyone in that zip code who has tested positive, whether their infection occurred two months ago and has resolved, or two weeks ago and is still active. Thus, while zip code data is informative, it should not be used to determine whether or not residents of a particular zip code are or are not at risk of COVID-19, advises Dr. Cara Christ, director of ADHS.

    Note: Traffic on the ADHS page is highest in the morning, when numbers are updated. Therefore, the page may load more slowly during that time period.