When Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced his state-wide mandatory mask policy, he left the door open for some Parishes to opt-out of the policy. The criteria that the Governor gave for Parishes to opt-out centered around having less than 100 positive COVID tests in the Parish.

During the press conference where the Governor made these announcements, there were only three Parishes who qualified. One of those who qualified was Red River Parish, but at the time, barely.

The Governor said that Parishes had to have less than 100 positive COVID cases, and Red River Parish was floating just under that number. At least, on the surface they were just under that threshold. But after Red River Parish took a closer look at the numbers, they found that they were well below the numbers they were originally operating under.

Red River Parish was being told by the Louisiana Department of Health that they had 96 positive cases...but that wasn't really the case. According to a post on the Red River Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness social media, the number was actually 58. The cases were 40% lower than what the LDH had told Red River Parish. So where were did the other 38 cases come from?

During investigation into the numbers, Red River Parish found that the cases being counted by the Louisiana Department of Health weren't actually being done by patient, but by test. Which means what? That means, according to Red River Parish, the same person who had one positive test could end up accounting for 3-4 positive tests. As they explain, once a person tests positive, they will take additional tests to show when they are no longer ill. If those follow up tests still show the patient is testing positive, it just counts as a new positive test, not that it was the same person.

Once Red River Parish caught on to what was happening, the traced 38 positive tests back to people who had already tested positive prior to taking more tests. After that, they were removed from the case counts, which dropped the Parish to 58.

As a result of this new information, Red River Parish has informed the Governor that they will be opting-out of the statewide mask policy.

If the case counts for Red River Parish were reduced by 40% because of this clerical error, what could that represent statewide? Could the entire state be overestimating the case counts? With a state case count of more than 80,000, as many as 32,000 could be called into question because of the Red River Parish findings. If this practice of counting multiple tests for the same patient as new cases is happening across all Parishes in the state, then we may not truly be aware of what the spread of the virus really looks like across the state.

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