You may have noticed more than a few social media skeptics about Arizona’s soaring coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. They just don’t trust the numbers.
We verified whether the state Department of Health Services, the repository of the data, is “double-counting” positive coronavirus tests.
On Sunday, Arizona posted a single-day record high of 3,857 cases. Before Gov. Doug Ducey reopened the state six weeks ago, 1 in 20 tests was positive. Today, 1 in every 5 tests are returning as positive, according to DHS.
Alex Berenson, one of the leading online skeptics of coronavirus reporting, is taking aim at the state’s data.
He’s a best-selling novelist, former New York Times reporter and now a COVID “truther.”
Berenson’s self-published online booklets, under the title “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns,” are described as “a counterweight to media hysteria about coronavirus.”
A recent Berenson tweet was inspired by a message from an unnamed Arizona resident who claimed to get information from an unidentified DHS employee.
Berenson posted the man’s message, without any apparent scrutiny:
“From someone in Arizona (I have confirmed his identity). Obviously, cases are really rising, but there seems to be at least some double-counting going on.”
“Someone in Arizona” provided the purported evidence: The DHS staffer said the state’s spike in positive coronavirus tests and hospitalizations was the result of double-counting.
“The same COVID test is repeated every day for each day a person is in the hospital,” the unnamed person was told. “That means a single COVID patient will actually return several ‘positive’ cases.”
In other words, the claim goes, if one COVID hospital patient tested positive every day for five days, that would be counted by DHS as five positive tests.
Arizona Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ refuted the claim of double-counting at a news conference June 25.
“We are aware the people will get multiple tests,” she said. “We work very carefully to de-duplicate. Each case is a unique individual.”
In other words, one person can account for only one positive test.
According to a DHS spokesman Chris Minnick, a person’s unique health information is kept in a protected database.
Five positive tests for that person would count as one positive and one test, he said. If that person tested positive at a CVS and a Walgreen’s, the database would still count just one positive test for that person.
We verified that there's no evidence state health officials are double-counting positive coronavirus tests.
In fact, Berenson appeared satisfied by Christ’s reply to his claim on Twitter: