Governor Mike DeWine’s press secretary Daniel Tierney told The Ohio Star on Monday that Ohio “is in and has been in full compliance” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) reporting standards, even though the state altered its reporting of COVID-19 test result on March 15 to exclude negative test results.
The change came three days before the passage March 18 of The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, Section 1702 of which requires state health departments report total aggregated coronavirus testing date results to the national agency:
States and local governments receiving funds or assistance pursuant to this division shall ensure the respective State Emergency Operations Center receives regular and real-time reporting on aggregated data on testing and results from State and local public health departments, as determined by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that such data is transmitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (emphasis added)
Monday, The Ohio Star asked Tierney via email if Ohio intends to comply with section 1702 The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act.
“Ohio is in and has been in full compliance with this law,” Tierney responded.
In a follow-up email on Tuesday, The Star asked Tierney to elaborate:
Section 1702 of The Families First Corona Virus Relief Act requires the state of Ohio to submit aggregate coronavirus testing data to the CDC.
Specifically, that means positive and negative testing results.
The Ohio Health Department stopped reporting negative test results publicly on March 15.
This failure to report negative test results appears to be a clear violation of Section 1702 of The Families First Corona Virus Relief Act.
Can you please explain why this failure to report negative test results publicly shows that your statement “Ohio is in and has been in full compliance with this law” is factually incorrect?
“I believe you are mistaken. The section does not reference reporting of negative testing results,” Tierney responded.
The Star also asked the Ohio Health Department (OHD) to explain why it is failing to comply with the requirements to report negative test results.
“Aggregated data means pooled data that is not identifiable to any person. So what we have been reporting is aggregated. 200 cases, in these counties, and not an actual list of patients affected. When we say 400 patients tested positive 300 male and 100 female, but not actual people names that is aggregated data. So it is the AGGREGATION of many individual events to yield a larger number,” a spokesperson for the OHD told The Star in an emailed response on Tuesday.
“We do report aggregated data on testing to CDC. This is what they have always required. We are also giving them results on positive cases. Again, what they require. The state is complying with this section,” the spokesperson added.
The statements of the OHD and Gov. DeWine’s press secretary, however, appear to directly defy Vice President Mike Pence’s specific directives given to governors in a March 19 video teleconference on COVID-19 between the president, the vice president, and governors.
In that teleconference, Pence said it is “important to note that while now tens of thousands of more tests are being performed literally every day, the bill the President signed last night also included a provision that states and private labs must report all coronavirus testing results to the CDC.” (emphasis added)
“Emphasize that to your state health department, your healthcare providers,” Pence told the governors.
He told the governors that he wanted to “encourage you maybe to pull them together today before end of business.”
Notably, Pence said the law [The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act] “included a provision that states and private labs must report all coronavirus testing results to the CDC.”
The vice president did not say that only positive coronavirus test results must be reported by states and private labs.
Earlier in the month, Ohio, Connecticut, Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland, and Delaware changed their reporting practices to the CDC to delete negative test results. However, subsequent to Vice President Pence’s March 19 remarks on the duties of the state to report all testing data, Tennessee, Connecticut, and Alabama have since resumed including the negative test result amounts to the agency as the law requires.
The Ohio Star reported Tuesday the Alabama Department of Public Health said via a spokesperson it is “reporting the results of all testing performed that is reported to us,” and that reported numbers come from the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories, commercial and clinical labs.
For more information on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
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Samantha Witwer is a reporter at The Ohio Star.
Jordyn Pair contributed to this article.
Background Photo “Mike DeWine and Amy Acton” by Mike DeWine.