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Mailbag: Let's be careful in virus assessments

Mailbag: Let's be careful in virus assessments

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The Feb. 20 Gazette-Times article “OSU’s virus cases spike” shows just how difficult it is to understand what is happening in our community.

But if I correctly interpret the source data, Steve Clark seems to be comparing apples with oranges. Mr. Clark states, “Since the start of Trace OSU in September, the positivity rate for students, faculty and staff has never been higher than 2%, which is much lower than the 3.2% positivity rate for the general Benton county population …”

Trace OSU is reaching whole communities, like all residence hall students, regardless of whether individuals feel ill or been exposed to the virus. The county positivity rate is based on individuals who request a test. They might feel ill, have been exposed to the virus, or are facing an upcoming medical procedure.

A fairer comparison would be with the Student Health Services positivity rate (21.6%) discussed in the article. Another comparison can be made of effluent virus numbers for the Corvallis campus (strong to extremely strong) compared to the Corvallis wastewater treatment plant (moderate to strong).

This story sounds too much like former President Trump’s argument that COVID-19 cases were increasing only because of more testing. I love Oregon State University, but let’s be careful in our assessments of this virus.

George Ice




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