Oak Ridge Today recently asked the Tennessee Department of Health how it defines confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases.
That information is included on the state’s website. So is information about COVID-19 deaths and probable deaths, and antibody tests.
This is among the information frequently requested by readers.
Almost all of the state’s total count of COVID-19 cases—more than 99 percent of them—are confirmed cases. About 0.7 percent of them are probable cases.
Here is how the Tennessee Department of Health defines confirmed and probable cases:
A confirmed case is someone who has tested positive via PCR test for the virus that causes COVID-19. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, and PCR tests are those that look for active infection with COVID-19. The Tennessee Department of Health only reports PCR test results.
A probable case is someone who may have tested negative by PCR, tested positive by another type of test, or may not have been tested at all, but has an illness consistent with COVID-19 and may have other risk factors. For example:
- If a person is a close contact of a COVID-19 case and has a clinically compatible illness, this person meets the criteria to be a probable case.
- If a health care provider diagnoses a person with clinically compatible illness with COVID-19, regardless of the test results, this person meets the probable case criteria.
The Tennessee Department of Health said it acts the same in response to both confirmed and probable cases.
“All cases undergo case investigation and a contact tracing interview, and are asked to isolate per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and TDH guidance,” the department said.
The department responded to a question on its website about how it determines if someone died from COVID-19 rather than another cause of death.
“If someone had COVID-19 when they died, they will be counted as a COVID-19 death,” the Tennessee Department of Health said. “An exception to this is when a case died of something completely independent to COVID-19, like due to a car wreck.”
About 96 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths are confirmed deaths. About 4 percent are probable deaths.
Here’s how the state defines probable death: “If a person dies and the health care provider that signs their death certificate determined that COVID-19 disease was their cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death, then the person meets the probable case criteria and would be considered a probable death.”
Readers have asked about antibody testing. The Tennessee Department of Health said its testing numbers do not show antibody tests. The state’s testing numbers show only the PCR tests, which look for active infection.
Here is how the state defines recoveries: A patient who 1) has been confirmed to be asymptomatic by their local or regional health department and completed their required isolation period or 2) is at least 21 days past the first test confirming their illness.
See the Tennessee Department of Health COVID-19 website here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
You can contact John Huotari, owner and publisher of Oak Ridge Today, at (865) 951-9692 or [email protected]
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