“I think the percent positive test that we’ve been hearing and that decisions have been made on is probably using the wrong data,” one infectious disease expert said
NEW ORLEANS — When it comes to coronavirus infections, the city health director says “We have to acknowledge right now it is out of control.”
But a former health director has concerns about the science behind tightening restrictions.
With the increasing coronavirus numbers and business restrictions that follow, an infectious disease specialist and former city health director has questions.
“I think the percent positive test that we’ve been hearing and that decisions have been made on is probably using the wrong data,” said Dr. Brobson Lutz, an infectious disease physician.
Here’s why. Tulane’s robust testing program of 17,000 students, faculty, and staff, one to three times a week, added a lot of negatives to the city’s numbers. That made the positive rate goes down, but testing stopped for the holidays, skewing percentages by comparison.
“And that’s a problem on using the test for percent positive on making community decisions, it doesn’t not always reflect what is happening in the community,” explained Dr, Lutz.
He says a better indicator of community infections is hospitalizations and points out that those numbers are up, but he has another concern.
“If there’s no evidence of any increased transmission with a restaurant sitting 25 percent versus 50 percent, I think it’s near criminal not to allow these restaurants to be open at 50 percent,” he added.
City Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno agrees that Tulane adds tests to the pool of numbers, but says average daily tests have only dropped by a little with the semester break. And she says hospitalizations are figured in to decisions by the city.
“If you look at the state data, we are breaking records for hospitalizations. Our hospitals are full of COVID patients. That correlates with the increase positivity,” Dr. Avegno cited.
She agrees there is little evidence that restaurant staff and patrons spread virus to each other, but she contends there is a bigger picture.
“Spread is happening everywhere, which is why restrictions are broad and across the board and why restaurants are not being singled out,” she said.
Her concern is that people going out anywhere, including churches and movies, then mix with others not from their households and that they are indoors and without masks increasing the risk of spread.
Dr. Avegno adds that cutting the number of people down by half in all public spaces will reduce transmission overall.