Gov. Murphy slams ‘conspiracy theory’ of COVID case load changes
TRENTON — Asked about social media chatter regarding fluctuations in new reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy did not mince words on Monday, noting the question was rooted in politics rather than science.
“It is a conspiracy theory — and you know this — which is claiming that, for whatever reason, that we’re making this look worse than it is,” Murphy said, noting the theory that the state was taking cases from the past and moving them forward.
The idea of test results being dumped and added by the governor's administration has been touted by social media users alongside their own data charts that they say have been tracking the daily changes on the state's public dashboard.
Other media outlets also have questioned the fluctuation in caseloads, said to be more than 1,000 day-to-day at some points.
State epidemiologist Tina Tan said that "illness onset" refers to the date when a person starts experiencing viral symptoms, which is what is used for mapping out epidemic curves in tracking the pandemic.
Meanwhile, new confirmed cases being reported to the state can shake out over several days, she said.
There may be a delay between illness onset and a confirmed test result being logged by the state based on the timing of when labs are submitting reports, Tan said.
"Find another state in this union that is more transparent with data as it relates to COVID-19. Find another state — I’m completely confident in the data we report,” Murphy said when asked why there were discrepancies in the day-to-day total of new confirmed cases based on test results.
There were 2,471 new confirmed cases reported on Monday, based on PCR test results. Another 513 probable cases were reported based on rapid, antigen testing.
"Probable cases" are individuals with a positive antigen test for COVID-19 and no positive PCR test, according to the state's data dashboard.
In breaking down a recent rise in new cases on a nationwide scale, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted a potential lag between new cases and 7-day averages that are reported, "as we continue to incorporate jurisdictions’ updates to their historical data."
"Every day we are reporting out those cases that get confirmed within that 24-hour period," Communicable Disease Service Medical Director Ed Lifshitz previously said when asked about the same issue a week earlier.
If illness onset date is unknown, according to the state health department's more extensive COVID-19 statistics website, then the date of testing or the date that the state was notified of a new case is used, "whichever is earlier."