When it comes to people shooting the messenger, we’re rather used to looking like Bonnie and Clyde after the police ambush. Sometimes, however, a response is necessary when the commentary ventures too far into spreading disinformation at our expense.
After reporting in Thursday’s paper the additional category of “probable” cases of the new coronavirus, we were accused of doing everything short of injecting residents with vials of COVID-19 to ramp up the fear and number of cases. Claims that the category qualifies as health officials making false assumptions or purposely inflating the number of people infected by the disease are completely off base.
A common theme among the conspiratorial minded accused us as making the numbers look worse to support our agenda of ramping up fear to destroy the economy and rob people of their rights. We should stick to reporting facts, we were admonished.
Only we are reporting facts derived from data provided by the Brazoria County Health Department based on actual tests of actual people. Their case counts now include the number of “probable” cases, a new category not dreamed up by journalists, but required by the Texas Health and Human Services Department.
These probable cases are not based on educated guesses but medical determinations.
We explained the criteria in our Thursday story, which we posted free for anyone who chose to read it to do so. Some did; too many didn’t before unleashing their two cents. Here again is where the probable designation comes from:
The probable cases must meet the symptom criteria and “epidemiological linkage criteria,” according to a Texas Health and Human Services news release. Probable cases are still required to spend 14 days in self-isolation, the news release said.
“If you meet the clinical criteria and are linked to a positive case, you will be counted,” Brazoria County Health Director Cathy Sbrusch told us. “If there is a detection of a specific antigen or a specific antibody, you will be deemed probable.”
Antigens are detected through a nasal swab while antibodies will be found through a blood test, Sbrusch said.
To further explain, an antigen test just received federal approval a week ago. It detects viral proteins expressed on the outer surface of the coronavirus. Antigens, a term for any foreign substance, like a virus or bacteria, are recognized by the body to induce an immune response to fight off infection.
Antibody tests measure antibodies in the blood to determine if the person previously had the virus and recovered. While they cannot diagnose an active case, they can be used to better track the spread of the disease.
Bottom line: No one is making up anything about this virus, and no one is purposely trying to make things seem worse than they are. This disease is plenty bad without the help of journalists, health professionals or others.
The “probable” case numbers, like the confirmed infections and deaths, are supported by the best science available for a disease no one knew existed seven months ago. It might be imperfect at this stage, but it is far from made up and not concocted or overblown by your neighbors from The Facts or those you voted to respond to public emergencies like this one.
And as the cliche goes, the numbers don’t lie — and those numbers are what The Facts is reporting in as straightforward manner as possible from reputable sources.