Barren River COVID-19 data still delayed

Leo Bertucci

WKU’s COVID-19 case dashboard has lacked data from the Barren River District Health Department for the past 10 weeks.

Bob Skipper, WKU’s director of media relations, stated in an email that the health department has not indicated when the data delay might end.

The delay was first announced to the campus community on Aug. 28, when President Timothy Caboni stated in an email that the delay was “due to a reporting issue caused by the contact tracing soft- ware transition at Barren River Health.”

The health department is WKU’s contact tracing partner.

Ashli McCarty, marketing and communications director for the health department, said that while the health department has been able to use the upgraded software, the contact tracing process has slowed recently due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Kentucky.

The health department stated in a press release on Oct. 30 that the rise in COVID-19 cases has affected the “ability to communicate with each individual case and their contacts.”

McCarty said the health department releases county-by-county COVID-19 positive case data, but it does not share COVID-19 data to the public that would be specific to a certain school.

The Kentucky Department of Public Health does track positive COVID-19 cases that are affiliated with colleges and universities within the state, but its WKU case count does not match what the university has reported.

As of Nov. 6, WKU’s dashboard has reported a total of 851 COVID-19 cases and the state health department dashboard has reported a total of 844 cases.

According to the state health department’s website, all reported cases of COVID-19 are confirmed through a verification process, so its case count might not match what has been reported on other dashboards.

“I’m not sure where [the Kentucky Department of Public Health] is getting their numbers,” Skipper said. “I can confirm the numbers we post and hope we will be able to be even more complete once we get data again from Barren River.” 

Skipper said he does not know if the positive case count would be higher if data from the Barren River District Health Department was available.

“The numbers we have posted would be included in those from [the health department],” Skipper said. “I don’t know if they have positives from other labs that we didn’t know about.”

Before the reporting delay, Skipper had been receiving COVID-19 data from Layne Blackwell, the regional epidemiologist for the Barren River District Health Department.

“I’ve contacted her before most updates and she knows to contact me if anything changes,” Skipper said.

The Herald reached out to Blackwell for comment, but she did not respond in time for publication.

Leo Bertucci can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @leober2chee.