Clarifying Bedford’s Covid-19 Case Numbers ~ A Message from Town Manager Sarah Stanton

Editor’s Note: To clarify Bedford’s statistics in the Department of Public Health’s by-town list of confirmed cases of Covid-19, Town Manager Sarah Stanton wrote this message late on Wednesday, April 15

Good Evening –

In an effort to be transparent while being protective of resident’s privacy, The Town has been reporting out COVID-19 positive case data over the past several weeks. Late this afternoon, the Department of Public Health, and a subsequent article by the Boston Globe, reported out COVID-19 positive data by each individual city/town.  Unfortunately, this data reported by the state doesn’t jive with the numbers that many communities have been reporting out for weeks. The following serves to explain how the Bedford positive case numbers are generated.

This afternoon, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released city/town data of COVID-19 positive cases in each town. The data was generated from the statewide communicable disease surveillance system that reports cases of the identified disease for residents who identify as being from a particular city/town when they seek medical care or testing for a particular disease. In the case of Bedford, the state reported 81 cases. As of today, the Bedford Board of Health has received reports of 64 Bedford residents as being COVID-19 positive. The difference in case numbers is a result of two factors that are not clearly explained by the state data:

  1. Staff testing conducted at a Bedford facility, where 14 staff were tested. Being employees of the Bedford facility, these staff attributed their “location” to Bedford, when in fact they have residency in another community. As a result, those 14 staff were attributed to the Town of Bedford.
  2. An additional 3 people, when tested, listed Bedford as their “location” and actually live, in and are being followed, in another community/state.

The Bedford Board of Health has consistently worked to identify, communicate with, and conduct contact traces, as appropriate, on COVID-19 positive cases specifically attributed to Bedford residents, living in Bedford. When we identify that an attributed case is not currently a Bedford resident, we ensure the case is referred to the appropriate city/town Board of Health for appropriate follow-up. We are in the process of trying to acquire staff contact information from the aforementioned Bedford facility at this time to ensure proper follow-up by the Board of Health in the community where each staff member lives. The attribution of a facility’s staff as being residents of a community, as is the case with Bedford’s’ DPH figures today, indeed skews the data and the surveillance work of the Board of Health. Rest assured that our Board of Health staff are working diligently to ensure not only our residents but staff and former Bedford residents who are attributed to Bedford are identified are followed by the appropriate community. We have been informed by the facility that their COVID-19 positive staff have been told to quarantine at home, and not report to work until any symptoms resolve.

Given the imperfect and inconsistent nature of how COVID-19 positive cases (i.e. employees of a Bedford facility and former Bedford residents living out of town) were reported as Bedford cases, our lack of control over initial COVID-19 case data entry into the state surveillance system and the imperfect manner in how cases are attributed to a community, the numbers for Bedford may be skewed for some time. The numbers that the Town of Bedford reports on a daily basis are indeed reflective of current Bedford residents who tested positive for COVID-19, and who we are carefully monitoring or, if currently living out of town, are being carefully monitored by the local Board of Health in that jurisdiction.

Another idiosyncrasy of the data reporting system is that when a death occurs, of a current Bedford resident or a former resident currently residing in another community, the death is attributed to Bedford.

As you can see, the numbers reported by the state are not truly reflective of the actual Bedford residents diagnosed with COVID-19. That said, the Bedford Board of Health reviews all incoming data presented and works to ensure every case is appropriately accounted for either by Bedford or the appropriate community where the case resides.

All this said, by all accounts, the country, state, and Town of Bedford are on the brink of a surge in cases. As such, it is imperative to strictly adhere to all the proper personal hygiene and protective practices that have been presented since the start of this outbreak: abide by social distancing, stay home except for necessary, essential and allowable errands, don’t touch your face, engage in frequent handwashing, use sanitizer, regularly sanitize common-touch surfaces and wear a face covering when you must go out in public.

Thank you for your anticipated support and diligence in taking the necessary precautions to slow the spread.

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