LDH officials rebuke social media claims ‘COVID-19 positives with no test,’ positive tests being reported multiple times

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Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health
David Gray | The News

BATON ROUGE, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – Information is rampant on the internet in 2020, and it flows from all sources.

On Thursday, Governor John Bel Edwards delivered a press conference regarding the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana. Edwards was asked about a new social media trend, which had two parts – 

1) Individuals were claiming that friends or family members were going to get tested, decided they couldn’t wait, left – but still received a ‘you tested positive’ note

2) Claims have also come in that the state Department of Health is counting testing numbers twice. That is, individuals are testing and coming back positive, and then re-testing until they were no longer positive – the claims suggested that LDH was recounting all those positive tests.

Edwards ceded the microphone to Dr. Alex Billioux of the Louisiana Department of Health, who pushed back against both claims.

“We have zero credible evidence or leads in either case,” Billioux said.

Billioux said that most of the leads they have been given begin with a ‘friend’ or a ‘cousin,’ and drop off from there. Testing sites are required to call if an individual tests positive, which is followed up by a call from the state’s contact tracing program – who’s number is set and public.

Billioux asked anyone who might have credible information regarding this practice to contact the Louisiana Department of Health.

With regard to testing, Billioux said that LDH has a digital board with everyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. If your name appears positive again, it’s not counted in the next day’s coronavirus counts, he said.

A post from Red River Parish’s Department of Homeland Security has it’s own push back against that claim. According to Red River DHS, cumulative counts submitted to their office suggest that there are double-counts for people returning positive results.

LDH’s site, which tracks coronavirus cases throughout the state – by parish – lists Red River as having 96 cases. According to Red River’s DHS, that number should be closer to 58, based on their local counts. Red River DHS posted the above blurb to Facebook on Monday, with conservative opinion site The Hayride picking up the news Wednesday, July 15.

Billioux said that the state had nothing to gain by using new positives for case counts, and despite that the evidence was mounting with rising hospitalizations and patients on ventilators. Those on social media argued that increased case counts allowed LDH and the governor to work together to enforce the mask mandate.

Billioux did not mention the Red River Parish post.

On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House’s Federal Task Force fighting COVID-19 backed up the governor’s mask mandate, stating that the task force was there to support state’s response to the coronavirus and that all states had a different approach.

Both Birx and Pence said that individuals should follow mitigation efforts – including masks, social distancing, and washing hands – to help curb the spread of the disease.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Vice President Pence said flatly.

McHugh David | The News

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