In the continuing saga of discrepancies between Gov. John Bel Edwards and his Louisiana Department of Health on one hand and a burgeoning list of parish governments on the other, there was a new development over the weekend when the head of Ouachita Parish’s homeland-security office popped off about COVID-19 case counts he sees as bogus…
Ouachita Parish Director of Homeland Security Neil Brown joins the growing list of parishes who are raising red flags about the way COVID-19 cases are being counted.
Earlier in the week, DeSoto Parish Sheriff Jayson Richardson and LaSalle Parish Sheriff/Head of Homeland Security Scott Franklin came forward with claims of inaccuracies due to over counting. Sheriff Franklin says the over counting sits at 40.6% in LaSalle Parish. He also mentioned two other parishes and the inaccuracies he claims they are dealing with due to over counting – Red River (40%) and Caldwell (47.73%).
Here was Brown’s interview on Moon Griffon’s show on Friday…
Terrebonne, St. Mary and Lafourche Parishes have already shown similar problems with the state’s record-keeping. Now there is Ouachita.
And what is the governor’s response to this criticism of his record-keeping? Well…
Early in the pandemic, the Louisiana Department of Health started sending out lists of patients who tested positive for the coronavirus to local emergency officials, in an effort to help first responders know when to prepare for interacting with someone with the virus.
But in some rural parishes, those emergency officials combed through the names, noticed duplicates on the lists, and shared the lists with other elected officials. Several claimed it was evidence the state is inflating the number of cases in their region because their list didn’t match up with the Health Department’s official tally of cases.
Now the Health Department says locals are misusing the lists, violating patient privacy laws and misinterpreting the data to reach erroneous conclusions. This week, the Health Department sent out a data sharing agreement that officials must sign in order continue receiving the data.
The saga reveals a wide gulf in trust between some of the state’s more rural parishes and the state Health Department, as well as the difficulty the state has experienced communicating complex sources of coronavirus data.
“The problem we had is when we did share it, we told them this is HIPAA (protected) information, you’re not to share it with everyone, they have not always followed our guidance,” Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana’s state health officer, said Thursday, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. “They have shared and put information out and put names out and that changes the way people react to you, at your home, in your community.”
It’s obviously very convenient that LDH is now screeching about HIPAA violations. It sounds a lot like a crutch being used to squelch the growing murmurs about LDH’s numbers being padded.
On Sunday LDH reported a staggering number of new cases – 3,467. That was over two days, as LDH doesn’t report numbers on Saturdays. Less well recognized is that there were 37,000 tests given to generate that number.
And hospitalizations fell by 12.
The question starts to become whether any of these numbers are at all useful. We’re past the point of questioning whether Edwards’ obsession about case counts as a justification for lockdowns, bar closures and mask mandates is remotely productive.