The Daily Leader reports information in every edition about COVID-19 cases in South Dakota and Lake County, with the data coming from the state Department of Health.
We occasionally receive calls from alert readers who ask about the information. Often, the questions involved data in news stories or other sources, noting that the numbers don't seem to match state Department of Health numbers.
We understand the challenge that we're all facing when it comes to the pandemic. We're eager to know exactly what's happening, but sometimes we feel as though we don't.
Here are a few factors that we know:
-- Privacy - Health records are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Information about who COVID-19 patients are is usually only known if the patient or family releases information.
-- Testing delays -- There is a period of time between when a testing sample is taken and the result is known. There are "quick tests" that may give results the same day, while other tests may involve waiting five to seven days. With about 44,000 tests administered in South Dakota each month, there can also be lab delays.
-- Statewide reporting - Positive and negative test results across the state are reported to the DOH each day and made public just before noon seven days a week. We don't know what time of day the cutoff is, so there could very well be situations where a positive test is known but doesn't get reported to the state until the following day.
-- County of residence - We understand that positive tests for South Dakotans are reported in their county of residence, not where they contracted the virus or where the test was taken. If a Lake County resident contracted the virus in Rapid City and had a test in Sioux Falls, the number is reported as Lake County. Conversely, if a Sioux Falls resident contracts the virus at Lake Madison and is tested at Madison Regional Health, the statistic is registered under Minnehaha County.
-- Cause of death - This one we don't know much about. If a person with a number of health issues dies, do they conduct a postmortem test for COVID-19? Is that listed as the cause of death, or was it caused by other health conditions?
The Daily Leader will continue to report data provided by the state Department of Health, and our stories will continue to provide other information, as released by patients, health officials or others with authority to do so.
-- Jon M. Hunter