NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Department of Health announced changes to its format for sharing COVID-19 data.

Starting June 12, the department’s total number of cases and total deaths now include both laboratory-confirmed cases and probable cases as defined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance case definitions.

Testing results now include total polymerase chain reaction, or PCR tests completed. Reports going forward will include results for those who have been tested multiple times, to provide what the state believes is a “more accurate picture of the amount of COVID-19 testing taking place in Tennessee.”

A release from the department states the changes are “to provide more comprehensive information about the COVID-19 pandemic in Tennessee.”

The department broke down how the new data is defined.

What is a confirmed case?

A confirmed case is someone who tested positive (via PCR test) for the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARSCoV-2).

What is a probable case or death?

A probable case is someone who may have tested negative by PCR, tested positive by another type of test or may not have been tested at all, but has an illness consistent with COVID-19 and may have other risk factors.

Examples include:

  • If a person is a close contact of a COVID-19 case and has a clinically-compatible illness, this person
    meets the criteria to be a probable case.
  • If a health care provider diagnoses a person with clinically-compatible illness with COVID-19,
    regardless of the test results, this person meets the probable case criteria.
  • If a person dies and the health care provider that signs their death certificate determined that
    COVID-19 disease was their cause of death or a significant condition contributing to death, then
    the person meets the probable case criteria and would be considered a probable death.

Does public health take different actions for confirmed or probable cases?

For both confirmed and probable cases, public health officials take the same actions. All cases (confirmed and probable) undergo a case investigation and contact tracing interview and are asked to isolate per CDC/TDH guidance. Their contacts are then contacted and asked to quarantine for 14 days.

Why are the number of cases and the number of positive tests different?

The number of cases shows the number of individual people who are either confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases. Individuals are only counted once in this number, no matter how many positive tests they might have had. The number of positive tests is the total number of PCR-positive laboratory results that have been reported to TDH.

The number of negative tests is the total number of PCR-negative laboratory results that have been reported to TDH.

Are antibody tests included in TDH’s testing numbers?

No, these numbers only show the testing volume for PCR tests, which look for active infection.