Houston-area health authorities are overstating the number of new Covid-19 cases as data teams struggle to work through a backlog of old test results in the third-largest U.S. county.
On an almost daily basis, Harris County Public Health releases a tally of what it calls “new cases” that a Bloomberg analysis found includes hundreds of diagnoses that are weeks or months old. On Tuesday, for example, more than 70% of the new cases disclosed actually were detected prior to this month and some dated as far back as June.
The confusion means authorities may be exaggerating the current severity of the outbreak — and were unknowingly understating the extent of the crisis in June and July, when hospitals were stretched to their limits. The situation also highlights the dilemma facing political leaders imposing mask mandates and other restrictions based on what they presume is accurate, timely data.