Letter to the Editor: Tulare County COVID-19 site and news reports leave critical questions unanswered

Dear Editor,

I am writing to suggest that a better job could be done in terms of complete information and promptness with the Tulare County COVID-19 web site.  

It seems un-informative on basic things like “How many cases have we had?” and “Why?” At least for this user, it seems to me to be misleading in several key dimensions.

I wonder if this data portrayal is why the County Commissioners felt we had ‘no problem’ re-opening. The San Jose Mercury-News [on June 10] had a map saying Tulare County had 2,381 cases, 94 deaths. That morning, Tulare County’s COVID-19 site showed “94 deaths” in one spot, with no notion of case numbers. The opening slide said 1,844 cases (see below). On the other hand, Fresno’s ABC-30 map had the numbers on the right displayed.

Then the county had a ballyhooed geo-spatial map: “Tulare County Public Health Branch and Tulare County Information and Communications Technology (TCiCT) released a new mapping tool to give community members a more accurate view of the areas affected by COVID-19” released April 2.

Here, on the left, was the “current map” on June 10, which plotted the locale of 784 cases—none in Visalia? And where are the other 1,600 cases? The more colorful map on the right documents 680 cases.  These are the two maps online to give us a “more accurate view”?          

And then we ask, “Who has been affected?” And the common story is that we had a huge surge in nursing and long-term care homes, plus food processing centers, and that those drove our numbers. But the best I can find from the county’s online site and newspaper reporting is that nursing homes were about 300-400 cases, and food processing maybe another 250, which leaves 1,800 cases within an “unknown” category.   

Newspaper and TV accounts now say (but didn’t until recently) that: “More than half of the county’s positive cases (1,112) were due to person-to-person contact: 34 were travel-related and 1,066 cases are unknown or under investigation.”

Could we get better information? It seems to me that we’ve made a critical assumption—that this crisis is more-or-less over with, and we can get on with things. I think we need the whole story.


Chuck House

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