Cumberland County, NJ (June 26, 2020) Challenging media reports that Cumberland County is experiencing an “uptick” in COVID-19 cases; Freeholder Director Joseph Derella has made it clear that the actual number of COVID-19 cases among County residents is much lower than reflected in statistics reported by the New Jersey Department of Health. Director Derella stated, “A substantial portion of the New Jersey’s incarcerated individuals reside in our County’s state and federal correctional facilities.” “COVID-19 positive cases among inmates in those facilities are included by the NJDOH in Cumberland County’s case total”, explained Derella. “When you remove the inmate population, the percentage of residents of Cumberland County who have tested positive for COVID-19 is markedly lower than the rate of infection reported by the State and is consistent with our surrounding counties in South Jersey”, added Derella.
Cumberland County Public Health Officer Megan Sheppard points out that differences in reporting methodologies also can cause variances from the state’s positive COVID case statistics stating, “Both the NJDOC and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have their own procedures for testing and reporting that may make it appear that there is a spike in new cases in Cumberland County.” “It is for that reason Cumberland County does not include either state or federal inmates in its reported COVID positive cases; those cases are reported separately”, added Sheppard. “We derive Cumberland County’s confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and deaths from a daily review of data from New Jersey’s Communicable Disease Reporting and Surveillance System from which we report positive cases on Cumberland County Government’s website at www.co.cumberland.nj.us.” Sheppard stated.
Director Derella cited the intimate knowledge the County’s two health departments have of their communities, as the reason the County has been able to track its COVID-19 cases accurately. “Both the County and Vineland Health Departments engage in a continuous process of case validation that minimizes the risk that the number of cases will be under reported or over reported”, stated Derella. “In fact, that ongoing review and validation process can cause what appears to be unusual daily changes in both positive COVID case counts and COVID related deaths”, stated Derella. Providing an example of the type of review in which the County Health Department engages, Director Derella explained, “Our public health officials ensure that people who have tested positive are not counted separately each time they test positive.” Derella went on to state, “Our health departments have discovered instances in which out of county residents were counted as Cumberland County residents and one case in which a female state correctional facility inmate was reported as testing positive in an all-male state prison.” Derella added, “Minor mistakes will be made in reporting, but I am confident that the number of COVID-19 positive cases reported by the Cumberland County and Vineland Health Departments is a realistic reflection of positive COVID-19 cases in Cumberland County. I commend the hard work our local county health officials do in ensuring our reported cases are as accurate as possible”, Derella concluded.