Public health department corrects negative test result backlog in public dashboard

Coronavirus COVID-19

MADISON, Wis. — Public Health Madison and Dane County has corrected a backlog of negative test results displayed on its data dashboard by adding around 17,000 negative tests on Friday.

The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

The department said the backlog did not affect the decision-making behind recent public health orders, as those decisions were based on a number of other metrics, such as the total number of cases per day.

“That’s why we developed this comprehensive Forward Dane plan that has nine different metrics that we look at,” said Brittany Grogan, a data analyst with the department. “And so our decision making is never just on one thing. Percent positivity has never been the reason for new orders because it’s never actually even been red.”