City of AustinFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Austin Public Health is issuing the following statement on an additional backlog of cases from the Texas Department of State Health Services:
Austin Public Health (APH) has continued to receive additional backlogged laboratory reports from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), now totaling approximately 7,000 backlogged lab reports for Austin-Travis County. That is about 4,800 additional cases that were received after the initial Aug. 13 delivery.
On Aug. 13, APH received approximately 2,200 backlogged lab reports from DSHS and immediately began to process and enter the reports. The majority of the results are duplicate records with case investigation already completed by APH. Additionally, many of the results are from more than a month ago, with some records dating back as far as April. While backlogged lab results are just being received by APH, most cases should have been notified by their providers of their results.
“I am very proud of our data entry and epidemiology teams that continue to work overtime on their day-to-day tasks and are now having to manage these additional laboratory reports, cross-checking them with cases that have already been entered or investigated,” said Janet Pichette, APH Chief Epidemiologist. “Everyone is pitching in to clear this backlog. Our staff goes above and beyond every day to keep Austin and Travis County safe, and this latest curveball is no exception.”
It is important for the public to understand that APH does not lean heavily on the DSHS data in order to understand the burden of COVID-19 on Austin and Travis County. We receive data directly from hospitals, labs, and partners, and we have teams dedicated to data entry, case investigation, and evaluating the COVID-19 response in Austin-Travis County. Because providers are required to directly report suspected or confirmed cases to the local health department, APH begins case investigations with those reports to keep the community safe.
The reports are the result of a backlog of electronic lab reports sent from the DSHS. The National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) Electronic Laboratory Reporting (ELR) system at DSHS provides a method for hospital and clinical laboratories to electronically submit test results to fulfill their statutory obligation to report test results to the public health authority.
APH will continue to process the original backlogged lab results as well as the additional results and will not know the true impact of the reporting error until processing is complete. These lab results may continue to affect case number reporting in Austin and Travis County.
For more information and updates about COVID-19, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.