Regional Medical Director Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh explains COVID-19 percent positivity rates for Region 5

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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Department of Health revealed the percent positivity rates of COVID-19 tests for Southwest Louisiana are above 10 percent for the first time since early August.

“During the biggest peak that we had we were running close to 20 percent positivity but percent positivity is only one metric that we really need to look at,” Regional Medical Director Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh said.

In July Region 5, (which includes Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jeff Davis parishes) saw a high positivity rate of 18 percent. Since then the area has ranged from 5 to 10 percent.

The new numbers are now showing 11 percent. But what does that mean exactly?

“Positivity rate is calculated only based on PCR test, which are the fancy tests that get sent off for confirmatory at the lab; that takes several days to come back and those are the best tests and those are confirmed cases,” she said. “However, we are now seeing now a large number of antigen tests that are being done, these are the rapid 15 minute tests that you get results back quickly, but those cases are only considered probable cases; so they do not go into the calculation of percent positivity.”

To put it simply- Dr. Cavanaugh said COVID-19 cases in the area are on the rise. As for Gov. John Bel Edwards claim that Calcasieu Parish has the highest positivity rate right now- she said that’s not exactly the case.

“What I believe was being referred to is that there were several days last week when we reported the total number of new cases reported including both the confirmed cases and the probable cases,” she said. “Calcasieu Parish was at the top of that list several days in a row.”

Dr. Cavanaugh said it’s also important to note the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations.

“We were running an average of 30 to 40 across the region and we’ve jumped up into almost 70 now in just a few short days,” she said.

Dr. Cavanaugh said despite the rise in positivity rate, the good news is medical officials have a better understanding of how this virus spreads and she wants to offer a message of hope as vaccines are developed to help fight this virus.

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