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Comptroller Franchot questions state’s COVID-19 calculations

The state disputes the claims
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Posted at 4:13 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 13:05:24-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — In a letter to Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot expressed concern with reported changes in how the state provides data on positive COVID-19 cases.

Franchot cites how Johns Hopkins was forced to change their method in calculating Maryland's positivity rate.

The Comptroller alleges the state now provides data on all COVID-19 tests performed including those people who took more than one test.

He says that creates a larger denominator which in turn lowers the actual positivity rate in the state.

"This revelation is troubling and could compromise not only the health and welfare of our residents, but the public confidence in these figures and the global reputation of Johns Hopkins," Franchot wrote in the letter.

Franchot went on to suggest two other methodologies, which in his opinion would more accurately account for Maryland's COVID-19 cases.

One recommendation is to report the positivity rates of cases per 100,000 people.

The second would be to report the positivity rates utilizing a “people over people” method, which divides the number of individuals testing positive over the total number of people tested.

Franchot claims the latter is the preferred method of Johns Hopkins experts.

In the letter, Franchot seems to believe the change may have been political.

"Here in Maryland, we must avoid the type of politicization and manipulation of scientific data that we have seen at the federal level. We must let the facts and science guide our decision-making, and politicians should not have any role in influencing the way positivity rates are reported and the data shared with Johns Hopkins to produce its independent reports."

In a statement, Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert R. Neall pushed back saying no calculation changes have been made, calling Franchot's claims of political interference, "fundamentally irresponsible."

"The Comptroller's understanding of how our public health experts calculate the state's official data is incorrect," said Neall. "Our team of epidemiologists has consistently reported the state's positivity rate the same way, based on the same methodology utilized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Our experts have no involvement in how other entities calculate their data, and are not influenced by political factors. It is fundamentally irresponsible to suggest otherwise."

Read the full letter below.