'Up Front' Podcast Takes On The "COVID Confusion"
Jul 13, 2020 12:03PM
By Jason Huddle
Episode 67: The COVID Confusion
We're getting a lot of data about COVID-19, but little explanation. This week, we invited Ryan McGee from the Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA) to explain the COVID-19 data on their website and what it means. Jump on to cabarrushealth.org and follow along as we talk about what these numbers actually represent and he answers some tough questions from our listeners!
This week on Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, we dive into the numbers to help clear up some of the confusion surrounding COVID-19. We've asked the experts to come in and go over these charts and graphs surrounding hospitalizations, testing deaths, and we even address the true effectiveness of wearing masks. That's all coming up right now on Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Event Center. Cabarrus Eye Center, Certec Automotive, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. I'm your host Jason Huddle. Hello and welcome to another edition of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. If you're like me, you're watching the news and you're seeing all kinds of information being thrown at us whether it be percentages of increases but not actual numbers. Or numbers of deaths or numbers of testing, and everything is just getting so confusing. So I wanted to go to the experts, I wanted to talk to people who understand this data, who can break it down for us and tell us what it actually means. Even the websites are a little bit confusing. If you go to one website, you can glean some information from that, but some of it is still confusing, go to another website, and then you end up more confused. I know some people are using the testing both for and against their points of view, same numbers. And yet both sides are using them as ways to back up what they're saying as far as maybe wearing a mask or not wearing a mask or whatever. So I figured the simplest thing to do was to call my friends at the Cabarrus Health Alliance CHA and ask them, can you send somebody on to the podcast that will help us get through these numbers and they did. They were very gracious in properly responding and sending me Ryan McGee, Ryan McGee is the man to talk to when it comes to COVID-19 in Cabarrus County, and we have him on this program today. So in preparation for that, what you may want to do is jump on the CHA website that's Cabarrus health.org. And follow along with us because as we go through the conversation, we're going to be talking about different charts and graphs and things like that. And you'll be able to follow along and see what the data is that we're talking about. So why you're jumping on that website right now. I'm going to do shameless plug time. It has been a long time coming but a popular feature on Cabarrus Magazine dot com is returning this month ever since the shutdown. We have in place of our restaurant review, where we have our top three and bottom three restaurants in the area based on Health Inspection scores. We have had the restaurant guide running to help people know what restaurants were open and closed and what services they were providing during this shutdown as the shutdown begins to lift, and as hopefully we are heading towards phase three, and health inspections have resumed. We have decided this month that we will resume our restaurant guide sponsored by bluejay eco cleaning services. Thank you very much for your sponsorship, Blue Jay, they do a fabulous job by the way. They clean our offices here at CabCo Media Group and do a great job. So I encourage you to give them a call. But we figured it's time to start getting back a little bit towards normalcy. And this is just one little way we can do that. So our monthly restaurant report is coming back next week. And that's only at Cabela's magazine calm. And that's this week's shameless plug time. All right, we delve into the COVID confusion right after this break.
Jason Huddle 05:36
Welcome back to the program. This week we are talking about the COVID confusion. As I mentioned at the top of the show, there's a lot of information that's being thrown at us from a standpoint of numbers and percentages and what does all mean, and I get really sick of it. So I just decided, let's go to the experts locally. Let's go to the Cabarrus Health Alliance, CHA. and talk to them about what these numbers mean. What is effective? What is an effective? Where does Cabarrus County stand? We're going to cover all this in this episode, and I'm very pleased to have on the show with me, Ryan McGee. He is the Logistics Section Chief for COVID-19, with CHA. Ryan, thank you so much for coming on the program, especially on short notice today. Thank you,
Ryan McGee 06:25
Jason. It's good to be here.
Jason Huddle 06:27
So Ryan, let's get right down to it. First of all, you guys have changed up your website a little bit. There's a new dashboard. Walk us through that a little bit. How is this new dashboard? Is it supposed to be in your opinion, is that like easier to understand from a layman's terms is just more succinct? Why did you guys change things up?
Ryan McGee 06:46
Ah, well, it's it's really a combination of doing two things out. We try to make it easy to understand. And that's why you'll see just yesterday, we added these red, green, yellow Lights, if you will, for different measures about reopening. These are based on the same reopening measures that the state released several weeks ago, when we first started moving into stage two, it's the same data that the state is looking at in terms of reopening. And we thought this green, red, yellow, hopefully would be an easy thing to understand. We wish there were just one light, you know, and we could just say, we're in and I guess if there is you have to say we're in a yellow orange kind of state. But because none of the data is perfect or complete, and gives us a complete enough picture that we'd like. We have several measures. So that's at the top of our data page, we have these several measures is seven, seven measures on a COVID scorecard And that, again, aligns with the state's scorecard. And if you scroll down the page, we've got now For dashboards, and we're really trying to be as transparent as real time and and give the public as much information as we can. So your question kind of got to this, these are two separate things sometimes, right? The more data you present, the more confusing it might become. And so we're trying to give really clear guidance at the top, the situation is moving in the wrong direction in Cabarrus. County, if you look at the colors, we have one that's green right now several yellow and a couple of red.
Jason Huddle 08:33
So let me stop you real quick and just say, because I should have mentioned this before we started getting into the website there, the website is Cabarrushealth.org, um then once you get on the site, how do you get to the dashboard we're talking about?
Ryan McGee 08:44
Absolutely. So Cabarrushealth.org all one word, Cabarrus Health all together dot org and when you go to the front, the top of the homepage, there's a big COVID-19 kind of a banner across the top. Yeah, and when you Click on that it will take you to our COVID-19 kind of landing page. So that's not the data scorecard. It's really a whole bunch of different information that you might want depending on who you are. If you're a local business, if you're looking to get tested, there's all sorts of people who might want to use our website so that COVID-19 there's a landing page, and in the upper left corner, and also lower in the page as a button, you can find cabarrus County COVID-19 data. So if you look for data, there's a couple different links to it on that Coronavirus information page.
Jason Huddle 09:37
Okay. All right. So yeah, so I see the the red and I'm following along with you here. The red, the green, the yellow lights on different categories. Right. So like, green and testing. I guess that means we're doing good on testing. Is that right?
Ryan McGee 09:53
It means we're testing a lot more people now than we were a few weeks ago. Okay, and we will really sort of need testing to be ubiquitous. If you want to test you get a test to really have a clear picture of what is the spread look like and Cabarrus County. So it's green because we have some targets, the state set some targets and we're meeting those and continue to be testing lots of people, there's actually a dashboard. If you scroll down, or click on the little link that's next to that green testing area. There's a dashboard for testing and those those blue bar graphs. You can see for the week of June 21, we were up to 2500 people tested we're getting this data from the state now and so we're about a week behind that we get, you know, last week's data, and that's due to come out any day now. So as soon as we have that we'll post another week on the page but as you can see week after week, and this is not just embarrass Health Alliance. This is a All the providers, all the people who are doing testing in Cabarrus County that electronically report that to the state, we're continuing and as a county to test more and more people each week. So that's a good thing and and we're very happy that we're able to do that.
Jason Huddle 11:17
Okay. All right. So let's talk a little bit about the data. You mentioned the State's website. So you your information is about a week behind the state when it comes to testing. Is that right?
Ryan McGee 11:28
Yes, that is true. So So again, both the number of people being tested, and that positive percentage, those that whole graph, that whole dashboard, is based on state reports that are about a week behind. That's not true for most things on our website. In fact, everything else is as real time as we can make it. There are some caveats because tests don't happen immediately. They take a few days to, you know, right now taking, unfortunately quite a long time to come in, up to date. 10 days sometimes for those test results to get back to us so that
Jason Huddle 12:03
When we have somebody like I'm looking at July 1 numbers, we had 64 cases, when you have 64 cases, does that mean that those people were actually tested a few weeks ago, and they've come back and those are positive cases, but they were tested two weeks ago.
Ryan McGee 12:21
So this is the the test date. So we're using this graph by test date. So those people actually were tested on July 1. Now, it is possible that tomorrow and the next day, we will get more results back that Ron, we actually you can see we don't share the last five days, because we're no they're quite incomplete. But you might still see that 64 number go up in the next day or two. If we get another result back for someone who was tested on July 1.
Jason Huddle 12:53
Okay, so I'm looking at these testing numbers and it's a bit of a roller coaster and when of course, The the media always has to tell. So we had a record number today. Okay, but in between the 65 on July 6, and the 64 on July 1, was really yet at 20,28,47,28. So it's a bit of a roller coaster. So how do we know when it's like that? You know that we're not still on the on the increase, I guess, I guess.
Ryan McGee 13:26
Yeah, no, that is a great question. And anytime you look at daily numbers for testing, you're going to see a lot of fluctuation. And and I would love to take credit for this. But the state epidemiologist came up with this methodology. And the local folks at Cabarrus County it is helped make it a reality on our local data on our dashboard. But that yellow line is a seven day rolling average, that kind of averages together all those blue lines that are going up and down. And the idea is that yellow line can tell you the trend. And so as you can see, we're kind of level but at a relatively high number right now and the 40s. So for the last couple of weeks or so we have around the 40s that were pretty level a little bit up a little bit down, but that average line. Again, it's a relatively high number. I don't think we had averages that high and and again, this graph is going to keep rolling forward in time but even when we had some some outbreaks and some community living settings, I don't think any of our our numbers were this high in terms of case and new faces new people testing positive for COVID-19.
Jason Huddle 14:46
Okay, so when we come back from break, I've got to throw it to break but when we come back from break, I want to talk about the testing numbers and the number of positive cases I have all kinds of questions for you. So we're gonna throw out a break. We'll be back with Ryan McGee from CHA. He's gonna walk us through all this COVID confusion. Thank you Ryan. We'll be right back after these messages Thank you.
Jason Huddle 16:50
Welcome back we are talking with Ryan McGee from compares Health Alliance he is the Logistics Section Chief. I have to say that slow Ryan because that's a lot of stuff. For COVID-19, and he's walking us through the website if you want, follow along, where it Cabarrushealth.org. And then you click on the banner at the top, the COVID-19 information, and then the Cabarrus County COVID-19 Data button. And you get to all these fun little charts and graphs and red lights and green lights and all kinds of stuff. So we were talking right before the break about the testing. So here's where I think a lot of people have questions. All right. So yes, the the positive tests are going up. But we are testing more people. Correct. So doesn't it stand to reason that the numbers would go up because we're testing more people?
Ryan McGee 17:42
Absolutely. So we definitely expect to have more people testing positive each week as we test more and more people. You can see we are going up quite a bit each week intentionally by testing more people and the number that we use To try and figure out So to what extent is this more testing and to what extent is this more spread is this positive percentage. So if you go down to the testing data graph, it's it's the third dashboard down on that website, you'll see a yellow line of positive percentage. And you'll see this as a 9.2% for Cabarrus County,
Jason Huddle 18:29
Right, thats as of June 21.
Ryan McGee 18:31
That's as of June 21. That's, again, that data is about a week old, we'll get a new week's worth of data today or tomorrow from the state. And so that the issue is that is moving in the wrong direction. 10% has been used both at the state and the federal level as a, as a really a warning marker. If you're if you're getting above 10. It's a problem if you're below. You're in a good place, but the state has also said you we really want to be moving in the downward direction. So if you're testing 234 times more people, and you're not having widespread COVID-19 in your community, then you'll be getting a whole lot more negative tests. And what we're finding is the percentage is actually going up. And that's true for several weeks now. It's not been since May 10. It's been sort of a gradual increase in that percentage, even as we test more people, we're finding a higher number of those a higher percentage of those are positive.
Jason Huddle 19:31
Sure. So do you anticipate this next and by the time this episode airs, we will probably have more data on the website. So do you anticipate that number going above 10%?
Ryan McGee 19:42
I really don't know. Again, most of the case numbers continue to be high. It really is taxing on our ability to investigate all the folks who are testing positive and then to help trace the folks that they've come into contact with to try and keep them from Spreading the virus. And so I really don't know, I don't know who is all testing. There's definitely people we work with to try and get testing in certain communities. But there are lots of people testing and doctors offices that we don't even, aren't even in communication with. So I'm eagerly awaiting that information.
Jason Huddle 20:19
So I have some questions from some listeners that are just desperate to get more information as much information as they can. Alright, so here's the first one. And this is a great question. So we see the number of positive cases going up, but on a national scale, the percentage of deaths are going down. Do we know why that is? And does that mean that we are starting to overcome the disease from a community standpoint?
Ryan McGee 20:51
That's a great question and I do want to just highlight before we jump into it, that last dashboard at the very bottom of the page has the demographic breakdowns. We recently added ethnicity. And we do have a disproportionate impact on the Hispanic and Latino community in Cabarrus County. And I just wanted to point that that is also real time information as real as we can get it. And we added that information. This last time we added the dashboard. So getting back to your question, that is the thing we're looking at all the time. So if you go back up to the green, red, yellow, we don't have a measure for deaths in Cabarrus County, and we're really fortunate that the number of deaths has been relatively low. It's 30.
Jason Huddle 21:40
Ryan McGee 21:41
Yeah, it's 33 as of today, and we've had I mean, we've had 33 people who have lost their lives in Cabarrus County to Coronavirus, but we're not seeing that number going up each day and we're very thankful for that. We watched that number and we watched the hospitalizations, the biggest thing that I know of, that I can speak to in terms of the deaths is early in the outbreak early in the pandemic, we had outbreaks in communal living settings. So we had people in nursing homes in places where they were in close proximity to other people. And lots of people who live there are at high risk for complications from COVID-19. So that is definitely one reason we saw more deaths earlier. I guess the fear is that as we get more community spread, we may be seeing that again. So hospitalizations is that other thing we're tracking? And we are continuing to see, again, Cabarrus County residents is a is a relatively low number and a relatively stable number. People being hospitalized in the county is going up. So it is taxing our hospital resources. And that's sort of like the indicator that happens before that. The deaths, so to speak. So it's something we're watching closely. But we're, again, we're very thankful that the deaths are not rising really quickly right now,
Jason Huddle 23:09
Right? I mean, as of this chart, granted, that's as of July 1, there's only I say only there was 12 hospitalized residents. And even within that there's ICU residents, then there's just people that are in the hospital, and we don't really have that kind of breakdown doing
Ryan McGee 23:25
Well so yeah, we can say and again, this data is not up to date, but I'm hoping to update that soon, too. As of Friday, there were 42 people in the hospital with COVID-19. And I believe the majority of those are being treated for COVID-19.
Jason Huddle 23:44
Ryan McGee 23:44
So that's, that's something to keep in mind.
Jason Huddle 23:47
Okay, now, I did talk to a representative from the hospital late last week, and they if you recall, they had the temporary morgue set outside. They have actually since moved those off. They said that They did not anticipate needing those. And so they've sent those morgues away. So I guess that's a that's a good sign.
Ryan McGee 24:06
Absolutely, again, we're we're very happy not to be seeing a lot of people dying from COVID-19 in recent days. And and to the extent that we the best thing we know that we can do to prevent that I to get back to your initial question. I don't think any medical professionals or anyone from CDC, or even the or the State Department of Public Health would say that they believe there's some kind of immunity at work. So I don't think people are getting immune or less, it's getting less deadly.
Jason Huddle 24:41
Is it that the the people getting infected are not as vulnerable as those that initially got, were diagnosed and ultimately, maybe even possibly died? From the disease? Is it possible that we're just people, people, more people maybe are getting infected, but they are people that are able to fight the disease off,
Ryan McGee 24:59
I would say That seems to be the case. And the concern is as more and more people get infected, the odds of those people at high risk being infected, just goes up and up and up. Yeah, that's the worry.
Jason Huddle 25:12
Okay, I'm down to like the last minute.
Ryan McGee 25:15
Jason Huddle 25:15
But I want to ask you one more question I feel is very important, cuz I hear this question all the time. Okay. And I've even done my own research. Let's talk about masks really quick.
Ryan McGee 25:26
Jason Huddle 25:27
Masks. First of all,
Ryan McGee 25:30
Got mine on my desk right here.
Jason Huddle 25:32
Okay, so here's, I have so many questions about masking, not enough time to ask them. First of all, all masks are not created equal. All right, so if you're wearing I mean, I've seen everything from people strapping Bibles across their face, to you know, duct tape to bandanas to whatever okay. We all know that not all masks are created equal. In my research of trying to find a good mask, I could not find a single mask, in fact, every mass that I found on the market at a reasonable price, stated that it does not do anything to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It's on the box, it's on the label. So please explain to me how wearing a mask helps prevent the spread when they say they don't.
Ryan McGee 26:25
So the best research we have right now is that that mask that you put on your face, and again, we have we have information about this on our website. It should be a cloth mask, it's something you can wash and you can even make it yourself at home. That mask that you put over your nose and mouth is protecting other people to a large extent. So if you go to the grocery store and you have to come in close proximity to other people, if you're in some building where you can't socially distance if you're leaving your home and again, you're coming into contact with other people that mask is protecting them. So we need everyone to wear their mask, so that we are all have that higher degree of protection. It's not foolproof, it's not the ultimate gas mask that's going to prevent you from ever being infected. But if we all wear them, we're not spreading the virus to each other.
Jason Huddle 27:15
Alright, so is the the risk, because what I've also heard experts say is that the risk of you passing COVID-19 to somebody while passing behind them in a grocery store is very limited. So is it that you know, coughing or sneezing? Is that where the real risk comes? Like if you happen to be walking somebody by somebody you sneeze? That's where the risk comes in, or is it just breathing?
Ryan McGee 27:42
You know, I would say that that coughing that sneeze are probably a high risk. But if you ever noticed you put a mask on and it's hard to hear to understand everything someone says. And I think those consonants you're using right now when you're talking that your keys and your s`s and all those things. Those also are kind of spraying particulates out of your mouth. And if we were face to face right now we would be exchanging those particles. And and I think the research we have so far says that that that is is more dangerous than just that the air you're breathing than just the breathing in and breathing out.
Jason Huddle 28:17
Fair enough. I'm gonna have to let that be the last word as I am out of time today, but Ryan McGee with Cabarrus Health Alliance, thank you so much for spending some time with us. I'm sure our listeners will have some more questions on our Facebook group page up front with bears magazine podcast, I would love it. If you might jump on there and answer any that come up.
Ryan McGee 28:39
Sure, we'd be happy to do that. And thanks for having me on the podcast Jason.
Jason Huddle 28:42
Absolutely. Thank you Ryan McGee, and we will be back to close up the show. In just a moment. Stay tuned.
Jason Huddle 30:00
Once again, I want to thank Ryan McGee from CHA for coming on to the program and answering some hard questions about COVID-19. And what the data all means at the end of the day. The fact of the matter is, even the experts haven't been able to demonstrate to me that they know exactly what's going on. We've been hearing from the beginning, we're following the day that we're following the data. But the data has been wrong all along. It's been skewed from the start, which makes it difficult for anybody to tell exactly what's going on. Now I understand the precautions that people are taking. And I understand the argument for masks. And I'm not going to dispute that during this program. But I will say to make sure that you're going to the data sources, look at what the actual charts are telling us and not what the media is telling you to read into it. Notice that they are giving you percentages and not numbers. For instance, if we had four cases in cabarrus County Out of 190,000 people. And then the next day, we had eight cases, I could come on here and say, we increased our COVID cases by 100%. In one day, Well, technically, that's true. But we went from four to eight. So look at the numbers, and not the percentages, because those can be skewed to scare you into thinking things that aren't true. And that's all I'm gonna say about that. You can read into it, what you want to as far as what I'm trying to say, but at the end of the day, if we don't start going to the actual information, sources ourselves to become educated, and we only rely on the media to give us the information that we think we need. We're in for a hard road because they're giving you the information that's going to continue to get you to watch their program. They're not giving you accurate information in my opinion, but that's all I have to say about that this week. Make sure you tune in next week. Until then, you have been listening to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Event Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, Certec Automotive, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. As always, please remember to support those that support us. I've been your host Jason Huddle. Until next week. Don't cough on anybody.