Until now in Washington state, if people tested negative for COVID-19 twice, they only got counted once in state testing data.

That’s because the Washington state Department of Health (DOH) had been tabulating and releasing negative-test data based on the total number of people tested, not the total number of tests administered.

This methodology is about to change, the DOH announced Wednesday.

Under the new system, for example, if a person tested negative in April and then tests negative again in August, the DOH will report that as two negative tests instead of one.

The new approach will provide a more comprehensive and current picture of the state of COVID-19 infections in Washington, state Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a press briefing Wednesday.

“This also becomes important when comparing Washington state to other states,” he said later in a statement.

Wiesman said the previous system the state used required health officials to continuously comb through new testing data to deduplicate results, which created challenges in accurately reporting Washington’s negative test results and positivity rate.

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The DOH, citing the latest in a string of technical difficulties, didn’t publish daily tallies of negative test results for July 31 through Aug. 9. On Tuesday, Aug. 10, the DOH released “preliminary” testing figures that showed a drop in the number of people testing negative and a spike in the statewide positivity rate to 6.7%.

Testing figures were absent from the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Wiesman said the agency will resume reporting those figures in about a week, once it has changed over to its new system of counting them.

He noted that the data issues have not affected the state’s response strategy or the general trend of infections in the state.

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