DHHR completes investigation into active COVID-19 case discrepancy

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced on Monday evening that it had completed the investigation of COVID-19 case discrepancies in Randolph County that lead to the resignation of Dr. Cathy Slemp.

According to DHHR officials, the investigation, which was ordered by Gov. Jim Justice last week after the number of active COVID-19 cases in Randolph County were found to be much lower than shown on the DHHR COVID-19 dashboard, has found that the DHHR electronic case surveillance system was not updated with recovered case data from the local health departments and that DHHR did not follow up with local health departments to routinely verify recovered cases of COVID-19.

Recovered cases are determined by the local health departments as they follow individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. according to the release. The error in the numbers of recovered individuals on the COVID-19 dashboard was discovered by the West Virginia National Guard which contacted the Randolph County Health Department to verify the numbers, the release stated.

These cases, which had not been entered into the electronic case surveillance system as recovered, were cases from the Huttonsville Correctional Facility outbreak several weeks ago, officials explained.

According to officials, this week, DHHR’s Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services and the West Virginia National Guard contacted each local health department to verify the numbers and have compared them to those in the electronic case surveillance system which is updated to the COVID-19 dashboard.

This follow-up has found that many local health departments are behind on clearing these active cases, and that although the DHHR noticed this discrepancy, “nothing was done to correct the issue sooner,” according to DHHR officials.

“DHHR has made every effort to be completely transparent in the reporting of any data related to this pandemic and will continue to acknowledge any errors and discrepancies in the future and fix them as quickly as possible,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary. “We appreciate our partnership with the West Virginia National Guard as well as the local health departments. A system will be put in place to routinely verify data in the future to prevent this from ever happening again. Governor Justice has demanded this of us, and the public deserves it.”

Local health departments are in the process of updating these numbers and the DHHR said that it expects a final completion date of July 3, 2020 or sooner.

“Should any local health departments need assistance in this effort, DHHR is happy to provide any assistance we can, including requests to have the National Guard assist in this effort,” added Crouch. “We recognize we need to support our local partners more and provide more assistance to them as we move forward. They are doing an unbelievable job under extremely difficult circumstances.”

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