Green River District Health Department Public Health Director Clay Horton said the number of COVID-19 cases in the area could be much higher than is being reported.
Horton said case numbers could be about five times higher, and some sources even suggest up to 10 times higher.
According to GRDHD, there are currently more than 4,000 active COVID-19 cases in the seven-county region and more than 1,800 in Daviess County.
Horton said those reported cases are “just the tip of the iceberg.”
He said reported COVID-19 cases currently suggest there is still a lot of spread and risk in the community and across the country.
The region is about four times the critical level, set by the state at 25 cases per 100,000 individuals, he said.
“We set that threshold of being at critical level of 25 cases per 100,000 and we’ve been up around 100, so about four times the level of what we would even consider … taxing to public health and medical system within the community,” he said.
And those are just the reported cases.
“The number of cases that are reported, or laboratory-confirmed, is typically just a small percentage of any disease when we do that type of surveillance,” he said. “When you see these numbers that are reported out, they’re helpful. They’re very helpful in terms of looking at trends over time and being able to estimate what the actual disease burden is in the community, but you shouldn’t assume that’s all there is in the community. It’s probably just a sample of it.”
Horton said reported numbers are likely much lower than realistic numbers for a multitude of reasons.
He said individuals who are asymptomatic may never seek medical care or suspect they have been infected. Others may choose not to seek medical care when they are sick.
Other reasons may include failure by medical providers to report cases or incomplete or incorrect reports, such as a missing address that could result in a case not being reported for the county or state in which the individual resides. Horton said these instances are less common, but do happen.
This phenomenon, according to Horton, is not new to COVID-19. He said it is typically the case with any outbreak.
“This is normal in public health surveillance,” he said. “You don’t look at that data and expect it to be fully representing every case in the community … You’re looking at it to see what’s happening in the community overall.”
Christie Netherton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-691-7360