MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) A professor at California State University Monterey Bay is speaking out about inaccurate COVID-19 data being reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Judith Canner, a CSUMB professor of Statistics, said the numbers being reported by the CDC for Monterey County did not match data on the county's website. Both the Monterey County Health Department and the Board of Supervisors are basing decisions on that CDC data.
On September 9, the Health Department's Facebook page reported the county was in low transmission. But Dr. Canner says that data did not match her calculations.
"The CDC was saying we were in low transmission, which didn't make sense based on the cases I was observing on the county web page," said Dr. Canner. "I went and looked at the CDC web page. They were actually reporting zeros for the 7-day rolling average for the case rate. But obviously we had had cases."
I hate that I was right about this... CDC finally corrected the data. Our case rates have declined, but we still have Substantial Community Spread - per the CDC "Everyone in Monterey County, California should wear a mask in public, indoor settings." @MCHDPIO https://t.co/zrjG7nJp2h pic.twitter.com/Nb1QdJVQv9— Judith Canner (@DrCanner) September 17, 2021
The CDC's website currently has Monterey County in the high community transmission category.
During a county meeting on Wednesday, Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno had acknowledged discrepancies when asked how the county could have moved from low to high transmission in less than a week.
"We don't know how or what formulas they're using to calculate the case rate. So we can't explain why we jumped from, I think it was the blue category into the red category in a very short period of time. It doesn't match the data that we're seeing here locally," said Dr. Moreno.
Dr. Canner's calculations put the county in the substantial tier, with a slight downward trend.
"The CDC described explicitly how they calculate these numbers. It's not a mystery or some black box," said Dr. Canner. "They take seven days of data, they total it, and then they divide by the total population of the county. Multiply that by 100,000 to get the total number of cases for the past seven days per 100,000 persons in the county. It was a very easy number or calculation to find, and it was a very easy number to calculate."
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors is also using the CDC data to determine when their indoor mask ordinance would take effect. The mandate would be triggered when the CDC ranks the county in the high or substantial category.
"We heard the community say that they wanted us to tie the mandate to specific data and have it be a data-driven ordinance. That's why we consulted with the health department and chose the CDC data, knowing that there will be some fluctuation and that the data is going to ebb and flow," said District 4 Supervisor Wendy Root Askew.
Root Askew says once the mandate is triggered, it would stay in effect for 30 days to help account for any variations in data reporting.
Dr. Canner says there's a simple solution to the data lag, by calculating it themselves.
"In those key community metrics, they could just add a little tiny cell in that table that says high, substantial, moderate, or low. Then it's being reported based on more localized data and we're not playing this game of telephone with the CDC," said Dr. Canner.
The final vote on the mask mandate is scheduled for Tuesday, September 28.