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LETTER: COVID numbers meaningless without perspective

Your Oct. 21 story “Reported positivity number erroneous” demonstrates the difficulties of interpreting data available to the general public. Putting aside issues about COVID tests returning wrong results, data presented without proper context makes it impossible to draw meaningful conclusions.

Common sense tells us that an increasing positivity rate is not good if all other aspects of testing are more or less unchanged. But are the details concerning the testing program unchanged? Who is getting tested and in what proportions? Mostly people who are showing symptoms, those working in occupations in which exposure to COVID is common, vulnerable groups such as the elderly? Or are a significant number of tests performed on those in none of the above groups?

Are the demographics changing over time of those tested? What is happening to positivity rates within each demographic? Are the COVID-positive being tested daily until they receive a negative result? Unless the story behind the data is clear, changes in the positivity rate are meaningless.

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