Is it 729 active COVID-19 cases in Collin County? Or is it 663 active cases?

At the Collin County Commissioners Court meeting Monday, Collin County Judge Chris Hill struggled with these numbers. He also made reference to the Department of State Health Services, the state agency now keeping track of COVID-19 numbers in Texas, once reporting that there were 4,700 active cases in Collin County. But when he opened the file, he saw only 600 people listed. 

In mid August, DSHS reported 1,175 “new” cases due to a “very large” backlog of cases. It was a move that led Judge Hill and commissioners to craft a warning on the Collin County COVID-19 dashboard that alerted residents to the fact that their county leaders had lost confidence in the state’s COVID-19. 

“It’s got to be better than this,” Judge Hill told county commissioners Monday afternoon. “I know that the state has its hands full. And I’m sensitive to that. I’m sympathetic to that. But it has to be better. It can’t be like this.”

They spent a better part of the meeting discussing the state’s COVID-19 numbers. A majority of them still don’t have confidence in what the state is reporting because they claimed that the DSHS is simply estimating the numbers and not providing an accurate count. 

Judge Hill pointed out that prior to June 1, local health officials were keeping track of the numbers and providing an accurate daily count for residents. He said they would notice when someone was being counted twice — for example in the case of someone being on the Denton County side of Plano instead of the Collin County — and they would make those adjustments on the next day’s count. 

“There was always an actual accounting for the number,” Judge Hill said. “We don’t have that now. In fact, the state dashboard shows that it is a formula they use to estimate. They are not doing actual case counts. They are just guessing. Estimate is a nicer way of saying guessing.

“And to me that is problematic when the numbers don’t meet the basic logical test.”

He provided an example, indicating that if you were to add up Monday’s 11,257 total confirmed cases that are recovered plus the 729 active cases, that would equal 11,986 instead of the 12,001 confirmed cases. To get the 12,001 total confirmed cases, you have to add the 15 new cases mentioned on the dashboard.

The problem, he claimed, is that the new cases should already be included in the 729 active case count number while the deceased cases should be included in the confirmed cases because that is one of the outcomes. 

“So it just fails basic logical tests when you look at these numbers,” Judge Hill said.

He gave another example to prove his point when he mentioned that Sunday’s active case number should have been 714 since there were 15 new cases added for Monday, which would bring the total active cases to 729. Instead, if you look at Sunday, DSHS reports that there were 632 active cases instead of 714. 

“Where are those other cases?” Judge Hill asked. “They are not in the data file. Are they real individuals or are they just estimating? Are they just guessing that it is 729?” 

It is a question Judge Hill said he couldn’t get answered from the DSHS or Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. 

“Again, it fails the basic logic that all of us would expect out of something this critical,” reiterated Judge Hill. “We have superintendents of 22 ISDs in the county that are making decisions for all the students of Collin County based on the (COVID-19) status, and they get that status from this dashboard.” 

Collin County Commissioner Susan Fletcher from Precinct 1 wanted to soften the wording of their warning about the state’s numbers on the Collin County COVID-19 dashboard. The warning currently reads: 

Notice: Collin County is providing this COVID-19 dashboard as a convenience to our residents. However, the data that comprise the dashboard are provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), and DSHS officials have acknowledged that the data for Collin County are inaccurate. We advise residents that Collin County lacks confidence in the data currently being provided to us.

Fletcher wanted to change it from “inaccurate” to “not 100 percent accurate” and possibly remove the last sentence from the quote.

But Commissioner Cheryl Williams disagreed. “I think you know that when we put the disclaimer up, it was dramatically inaccurate,” she told Fletcher. “Until we did that, the state had really made no effort to produce any accurate information. So we did that and began to get some action from the state. I think we have got to keep that pressure on. It is still not correct. I think the fact that we pushed this issue is really important for the whole state. I am not prepared to back off just because they have improved somewhat. 

Fletcher agreed with some of what Williams claimed. “I think we have had a drastic improvement… and a quickness to fix the data, which was actually fixed a few days after that notice went up. I think it was a big deal.” 

“It was addressed in a few days,” Judge Hill offered. “I don’t know that I could say it was fixed.”

This back and forth between commissioners and judge continued until they voted on the wording of the warning. Commissioner Fletcher did her best to point out that DSHS clearly states it is their best estimate when the number is released and may not be 100 percent accurate. Judge Hill basically said the numbers need to be as close to accurate as possible and pointed out that they had already softened the language of the warning from “no confidence” to “lack of confidence.” 

“I don’t want to soften it just so they (state officials) feel better about it,” he continued. “I still feel pretty passionately that this is a big deal. We deserve to get good numbers.” 

Both Williams and Commissioner Darrell Hale sided with Judge Hill. They voted 3 to 2 to keep the warning the same. 

Other items of interest: 

  • Commissioners voted unanimously to change the qualifications for the CARES Act funding for housing from 25 percent COVID-19 loss to 15 percent and extended the funding from four months to six months. The program expires in December. 
  • Commissioners also voted unanimously to change the qualifications for Collin CARES Small Business Grant to allow healthcare providers like physical therapists and doctor offices, attorneys from individual or small practices, and small hotels to receive funds if they meet the qualifications. 

Christian McPhate

Christian McPhate has been working as a journalist for more than decade. He enjoys tackling true crime stories and late night writing sessions. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including...