Louisiana Legislative Audit

BATON ROUGE, La. – Coronavirus numbers reported by the state health department are “generally correct” but some duplications have occurred, according to an audit report released Thursday.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said in a letter to state officials his office was asked to review the Louisiana Department of Health’s data related to COVID-19 tests, positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths after officials in DeSoto and Red River parishes said LDH was over reporting the numbers.

On June 14, Red River Parish Police Jury President Shawn Beard said the state reported 96 positive cases but Red River counted 58. Days later, DPSO put out a statement saying it had reviewed the 491 cases reported by the state and found 105 duplications.

Most Louisiana parishes began reporting positive COVID-19 cases in the early stages of the pandemic. LDH prepared the list, known as the First Responder Report, of individuals known to be positive. Initially, the report was to be sent to EMS first responders so they would have advance notice of the possibility of coming in contact with a positive person during the course of their work. The advanced notice was important because of the early shortage of personal protective equipment.

However, LDH told auditors the data was eventually provided to the sheriff and Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in each parish to help protect the health and safety of law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians and other first responders. LDH’s intent was to have the report uploaded into the Computer-aided Dispatch (CAD) systems throughout the state. But there is no statewide CAD system and not all parishes have access to it.

From April 6 to June 17, LDH gave the comprehensive First Responder Report of positive cases to the state police. But it stopped on June 18, and instead started giving state police a report that only included positive cases that day. Additionally, LDH said the report had cases in which individuals tested positive in the previous 30 days.

In its analysis, auditors found the First Responder Report was not intended to represent the cumulative positive case count for each parish, only to help alert first responders to positive people they come in contact with on emergency calls.

“Based on this purpose, it did not matter if an individual was listed twice as having tested positive, as long as he/she was listed,” auditors wrote.

But because of the need to provide “timely information on positive cases,” the data did include duplicate cases and incomplete parish information not yet corrected by the health department, the report states.

LDH told auditors the inclusion of duplicates on the list was not an issue since the report was not to cross-check the number of positive cases for a particular parish.

The state police’s process of creating individual reports for each parish did not include changes or corrections made by LDH. “Although unintentional, this resulted in duplicate cases and cases not being assigned correctly to parishes,” the audit states.

Auditors said they, too, identified people on the report multiple times, and while LDH made changes in its data, that information was not made on reports given to Red River and DeSoto parishes.  

“According to LDH staff, 1-2% of the cases reported on the dashboard are potential duplicates that will eventually be removed through its automated and manual review and de-duplication processes. We plan to conduct an audit of the dashboard to fully determine the integrity of the data reported on it,” Purpera said in the report.

Auditors concluded that it appears the discrepancies between Red River and DeSoto parishes’ COVID-19 positive case counts listed on the First Responder report and the numbers reported by LDH on a daily basis between April 6 and June 17 are primarily the result of the following:

  • · Duplicates and incomplete parish information in the data provided by LDH before its de-duplication process for the dashboard, and
  • · LSP creating a cumulative list of new cases instead of using the cumulative case file provided by LDH.

Discrepancies related to the cases reported between June 19 and July 23 appear to be the result of the following:

  • · LDH not communicating new cases with collection dates greater than 30 days old,
  • · LDH not communicating cases where changes were made to the parish in which the case was located after the case was originally reported,
  • · LDH not communicating the removal of duplicate cases that had been identified by LDH after they were reported, and
  • · LSP continuing to create a cumulative list of new cases using the list of daily reported cases it received from LDH for individuals who tested positive in the previous 30 days.

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