It is now official. Davis saw its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The cases were first reported in the OSDH Situation Update on June 27 and remain active as of press time.
As The Davis News continues to track Murray County and the four counties that border it in each direction, once again this week’s results are up and down. Murray was one of three counties to see a rise in active cases, while the count went down in the other two. Overall, the total number of cases in this five county area went up from 58 to 66 in a week’s time.
Murray County was down to just two active cases in Sulphur last week, but now there are four in Sulphur in addition to the two in Davis. Pontotoc County’s case count also went up this past week. Ada went from six active cases to 11 and other new cases appeared in Roff and Stonewall to run the county’s total to 14, double the number of active cases a week ago.
Carter County’s total went up from 16 active cases last week, to 20 this week with 18 cases ongoing in Ardmore.
Garvin County saw a rise in the total number of cases but a larger number of recoveries, yielding a net loss of 8 active cases. Currently, Pauls Valley is down to 8 cases, Lindsay has six and three other towns in the county have at least one case. Johnston County’s total went down from five to four.
This week’s numbers illustrate the frustration of trying to provide an accurate picture of Coronavirus in the area. One factor that hit home this past week is the delay between a positive test and the time that the test result is reflected in the Health Department’s Daily Situation Update. Consider this timeline: on Tuesday, June 23 a Davis resident tested positive. Wednesday that result was relayed by a family member to The Davis News. That case didn’t show up on the Situation Update until Saturday. In the five days that passed between the diagnosis and the reporting by the State Health Department, it is difficult to get an accurate view of virus spread at any given time.
The Health Department acknowledges this lag time and says that it exists due to many factors. In fact, according to OSDH Regional Administrative Director, Mendy Spohn, cases reported on any given day can be “cases that have been worked over the past several days and not an example of a one day change.”
She notes also that hospitalizations are a tricky number to follow “because we don’t always hear as soon as someone is admitted or taken to the hospital.”
District 8, which includes the five county area around Murray County in addition to Stephens, Jefferson, Love and Marshall Counties, had five current hospitalizations in just under 80 active cases as of Monday.
Test results also must be treated as an inexact science. Early reports of occasional false negative results have given way to recent reporting of false positives. In some isolated incidents, percentages of false positive test results have approached 50 percent, raising concerns about trustworthy numbers.
Then, of course, there is the issue of those who contracted the virus and unwittingly carried it for some time. This reality can be seen by checking the situation update daily. Sometimes the number of total cases and recovered cases rises simultaneously or within one or two days of each other. This means that the diagnosis came either after the person had recovered or when they were nearly recovered.
We also now know that Coronavirus antibodies can be found in someone without the disease, indicating that the person evidently had it sometime in the past. This has caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to announce that the number of actual infections may surpass the number of known cases by wide margins.
In Missouri, that suspected margin was 24-1. However, there is a big caveat. According to the CDC website, “there is a chance a positive result means that you have antibodies from an infection with a virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses), such as the one that causes the common cold.” Therefore, the antibody test reveals the reality of more COVID-19 infections over the past few months than currently known, but how many more is still a guess.
This trickles down into another change in how the virus is viewed. If in fact many more people were actually infected with the virus, it is apparently much less common for the infection to be fatal than previously thought. For example, the CDC recently estimated a mortality rate of less than 0.3 percent, down from early estimates of nearly 4 percent. This all suggests the virus may be more contagious, but less deadly than previously thought.
Davis residents are dealing with the reality that confirmed cases now exist in their town for the first time, but it doesn’t provide tremendous clarity on the risk itself. The country is definitely learning more about the virus and how to fight it each day. Those looking for certainty in any direction, however, will have to keep looking.