Today, Mayor Jon Mitchell reported that the City of New Bedford’s COVID-19 count was more than 33% higher than the Massachusetts Department of Health count for New Bedford. As of today, the State reported 188 cases, but Mayor Mithcell reports the City’s Health Department counted “more than 250 cases.” Here’s Mayor Mitchell’s statement:
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has been committed to providing the public with accurate, current and complete information to enable our residents to protect themselves and their families. We’ve done this through regular and frequent announcements about public health guidance, the city’s multifaceted preparations, and the requirements concerning social distancing and other mitigation measures. Among other information, we’ve provided regular updates about the spread of the coronavirus in Greater New Bedford — particularly the total number of confirmed positive cases in the city itself.
Every day, we receive the number of new confirmed cases from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and report them to our regional media. The state’s numbers themselves are based in part on the numbers it receives from private testing facilities, which also report their numbers back to the healthcare providers that ordered the tests.
This weekend, the City’s Health Department discovered that the number of confirmed positive cases reported by the state was not keeping up with the cases the City was tracking from the healthcare providers in our region. As of this morning, with the help of our regional healthcare providers, our Health Department has now tracked more than 250 positive cases in New Bedford, which is significantly higher than the figure reported by the state. It is important to note that the test results that were not accounted for were completed over several days, and they therefore do not represent a one-day increase. Nor does this appear to be a problem unique to test results for New Bedford residents.
The city’s Health Department has informed the state about this problem. It appears that there may be a delay on the part of one or more private testing labs in reporting testing results to the state. The state reports that it is working with those testing labs to rectify the problem.
We are reporting this discrepancy not as a criticism of anyone. Everyone is working hard to manage a public health crisis the likes of which we have not faced in our lifetime. It is an attempt, rather, to be faithful to our practice of pushing out relevant information to the public. More particularly, we are concerned about the possibility that the previously reported totals may suggest to the public the “curve” of viral transmission in Greater New Bedford is beginning to flatten, when in fact it is not. While the overall numbers in our region are significantly lower than many other urban areas in the Northeast, the more current figures compiled by the city’s Health Department reveal that the virus is still spreading, the number of cases is still growing, and the curve is not flattening. So it bears emphasizing: now is not the time to relax on the social distancing and other measures that have been effective in our city and region.
We will continue to update the public with the latest information as we have it, in an effort to help keep everyone safe.”