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VERIFY: DMV COVID numbers do not count multiple cases for the same person

A viewer asked the Verify team whether two positive tests for the same person would be counted as two cases.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

Do two positive tests for the same person count as two cases?

ANSWER:

No. Each person who tests positive is counted as one case, regardless of how many times he or she takes a test that returns positive.

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- "Testing Data in the U.S." "Cases and Deaths in the U.S." and "CDC COVID Data Tracker"

D.C. Department of Health

Maryland Department of Health

Virginia Department of Health

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PROCESS:

A viewer emailed the team and asked us to Verify whether two positive tests for the same person count as two cases. Our sources were the CDC and the D.C., Maryland and Virginia Health Departments.

The CDC puts out lots of data, including the total number of positive tests reported to them and the total number of cases. As of 12:15 p.m. on July 22, there were 4,653,438 positive tests and 3,882,167 cases reported to the CDC, according to the agency's COVID Data Tracker.

You'll notice the two numbers are different.

"The number of positive tests in a state is not equal to the number of cases, as one person may be tested more than once,” the CDC said online.

Our researchers then contacted the health departments in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to see how they report their data.

They all confirmed that someone who tests positive is only counted as a case once. They do also track the number of tests taken, but that’s a separate statistic.

RELATED: Coronavirus in the DMV: July 21

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health told our Verify researchers that whenever a test comes back positive, information about that person’s identity provided by the lab is “checked and cross-checked” to make sure that a person isn’t double-counted.

So we can Verify when a person takes multiple tests, they are not counted as multiple new cases.

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