CDC Community Level tool questioned using NC county example
Article published by the Brownstone Institute cites data from Dare County, NC
An article published by the Brownstone Institute questions the validity of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Community Level” tool for the spread of COVID-19.
The article, written by Dutch Jenkins, is titled “The CDC’s “Community Level” Tool Is Broken.” Jenkins posits that the data being used in the tool is inaccurate yet local government entities are still relying on the tool at the urging of the CDC.
Based on the improved phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread availability of several COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, the CDC on Aug. 11 issued loosened guidance,” writes Jenkins. “At the same time, however, the CDC’s push to get more government agencies, businesses and schools to adopt its COVID-19 Community Level tool for masking decisions is concerning, because the tool doesn’t factor in the widespread availability of vaccines and treatments when determining levels within counties across America.”
Jenkins writes that in addition to vaccines and treatments, the tool doesn’t take into account county-level vaccination and booster rates as well as decreases in strength of variants and subvariants, hospitalizations and deaths.
After a description of what the Community Level tool is and how it works, Jenkins offers an example from Dare County, North Carolina demonstrating how the data just doesn’t line up.
NCDHHS has been criticized for lagging data throughout the pandemic. Jenkins’ article notes this issue and that the numbers reported by N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and that of Dare County “never matched up.”
“The first observation made was that the COVID-19 cases reported by DCDHHS never matched up with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) reporting of cases for Dare County and the NCDHHS numbers never matched up with the CDC’s reporting of cases for Dare County,” Jenkins writes.
He goes on to write, “It is especially odd that the NCDHHS numbers didn’t match the CDC’s numbers for Dare County because the CDC’s Surveillance Review and Response Group stated in an email exchange that “case and hospitalization data are sourced directly from the NCDHHS.” If the case numbers never matched in nine straight weeks, where are the case numbers coming from?”
Other issues Jenkins finds using the Dare County example include the millions of tourists that come through the county each year are not factored in when looking at Community Levels.
Additionally, the CDC’s tool is problematic because “county hospitalizations are estimated by the CDC, even though local health departments have actual numbers.”
Also noted in the article is that Dare County is small and borders three other counties and that the CDC’s tool component that includes hospital admissions is also a problem that affects the accuracy of the Community Level tool:
This is when the Community Level tool gets very messy. Almost every county in America is bundled into Health Service Areas (HSA) for the purposes of determining new admissions per 100,000 population. Determining which counties are bundled together can be found here."
What does this mean? It means that a county’s Community Level destiny isn’t simply determined by its own cases and hospitalizations; a county’s destiny more often than not is hindered by hospitalizations in other counties, some of which are hundreds of miles away.
In the conclusion of the article, Jenkins writes “Strict adherence to the CDC’s broken Community Level tool should be ended by all that have adopted it and all Americans should be allowed to begin a post-COVID mental health healing process,” and that “The future of our country depends on it.”
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A key point made by the article is that “Once a government agency, business or school adopts the CDC’s Community Level tool, flexibility to make masking decisions based on accurate local data and prevalence of vaccines and treatments in a local community are completely removed,” and “Instead, the owner of a complex, inaccurate CDC database is managing all your decisions related to COVID-19.”
And Jenkins is correct.
The area where the Community Level tool is being relied on the most is in school districts across North Carolina following NCDHHS quietly sunsetting its StrongSchools Toolkit back in June. NCDHHS ending of the toolkit directed districts to look to the CDC’s Community Level tool instead.
In North Carolina’s largest district of Wake County that reliance was evident at a work session meeting on Aug. 22.
“We’ve lifted many of our COVID-19 restrictions,” Wake County Assistant Superintendent Drew Cook told the school board. “We feel it’s important to continue to closely track and report positivity rates, and we’ll continue to follow the latest CDC protection and prevention guidance.”
On a related note, it was reported that nearly 80 percent of North Carolina children ages six months to 17 years old had a past COVID infection based on May to June pediatric seroprevalence data published by the CDC. The NC extrapolation is based on 500 samples.
The percentage of people with antibodies against a virus in their blood is known as seroprevalence. Reinfections were not included in the data and the information “does not measure antibodies produced by vaccination,” and therefore can’t be used to estimate vaccination rates.
The CDC estimated the pediatric population that had COVID one or more times is at least 1,787,000 (79.5 percent) as of the May and June 2022 samples. Nationwide, that's 56,799,000; a 79.7 percent rate.
For perspective, most of NC’s 115 school districts had mask mandates in place back in February through March. The CDC's data from February showed a 69 percent pediatric seroprevalence rate in North Carolina.