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Changing how Kentucky calculates its positivity rate

Dr. Steven Stack

Frankfort, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported 776 new coronavirus cases during his Tuesday briefing, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 81,691. The governor also reported a 4.59% positivity rate, but how the state calculates that metric is about to change.

The state’s public health commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack, walked through how that calculation will be done differently.

More than 90% of all COVID-19 tests conducted in Kentucky are polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests, according to Stack. Starting Monday, the state will only use results from PCR tests to calculate the positivity rate, no longer pulling antibody or rapid-point-of-care test results into the mix.

“Those are the gold standard,” Stack said of the PCR tests. “Those are the most reliable for finding the active disease in currently-infected people.”

He said the state will also “transition to using only electronic lab reports.”

For the week of Oct. 2 – 8, more than 55% of the state’s PCR test results came directly to Kentucky’s disease surveillance software through an automated feed, averaging about 8,500 electronic daily lab reports, Stack said, adding that this will increase as the state continues to onboard more labs into this process.

The transition to doing this all electronically will also filter out the “historical lab reports,” Stack continued, so that it captures just the seven-day picture.

Stack said Kentuckians should look at the incidence rate, rather than the positivity rate, to best understand how prevalent the disease is in their communities.