Sonoma County revamps its website for COVID-19 statistics, moving away from unreliable case counts

As laboratory testing for the virus has dropped dramatically, health officials are shifting statistic focus to wastewater surveillance, hospitalizations and deaths.|

Sonoma County health officials have revamped the county website that reports local COVID-19 statistics, moving past infection rates and case counts that are no longer reliable due to dramatic decreases in laboratory testing.

The county’s COVID-19 “dashboard” instead prioritizes wastewater surveillance, hospitalizations and deaths, which are regarded as more accurate measures of a virus officials say has become endemic, or constantly present but manageable in the local community.

Officials, who announced the change on Friday, said data on vaccinations and COVID-19 variants will also be emphasized.

“Daily case rates will no longer be reported by Sonoma County and transitioned to CDPH case & testing data,” health officials said in a statement.

In her final public health message last week, former Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase explained that trends in virus detection from wastewater often precede statistical swings in infection rates and case counts.

Local cities have their own “catchment areas” and wastewater plants that are being monitored for the presence of various diseases such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 illness, as well as influenza and other respiratory viruses or bacteria.

“It's a great way for us to measure diseases in a whole catchment area, like a city,” Mase said during her public message, which was recorded April 5 and released online the following day.

“You'll see that wastewater increases (of viruses or bacteria) usually precede the actual case increases in the community, in that city area,” she said. “So, in other words, when wastewater goes up, we’re worried that we’re going to have increases of cases in that area.”

As of Saturday, the viral concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in Santa Rosa/Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Windsor all are trending downward. according to the county’s wastewater testing page.

In her message last week, Mase said concentrations of Influenza A and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, "have pretty much gone down to zero at this point.“

The county’s new dashboard shows that as of April 13 there were 19 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Local health officials, however, have repeatedly pointed out that many of those cases are what’s considered “incidental COVID-19,” where patients seeking care at a local hospital, for some other condition or procedure, also tested positive for the virus.

The dashboard shows two people currently in ICU for COVID-19 as of April 13, the latest data available. The only COVID-19 case counts on the county’s dashboard come from the state.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or On Twitter @pressreno.

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