top of page
  • Writer's pictureAletheia

Dane County's Hidden Breakthroughs, Pt 2

NOTE: This article has been significantly amended as of Jan 27, 2021. Dane Undivided yesterday gained significant documentation that was not in public view, concerning how PHMDC calculates rates. As we work to understand how this information impacts our own methods of estimation, we have opted to err on the side of caution and eliminate a data table we'd previously included, below, to estimate more accurate breakthrough percentages in the county, along with an explanation of how those percentages were calculated. As we learn more, we may be able to say more. For now, we will let PHMDC's data from the meeting minutes speak for itself.

RECAP: Recently, a private citizen provided Dane Undivided with approximately 500 pages of internal PHMDC Data Team meeting minutes. Acquired through open records, the minutes encompass the period from July 14, 2020 through Sept 7, 2021, and hold numerous important insights about how PHMDC thinks and operates. This series focuses one of the most troubling items uncovered in those documents: the rising rate of breakthrough cases in Dane County, and the reluctance of PHMDC to communicate this reality to citizens in an open and transparent manner.

Part 1 covered key meeting minutes from February through May 2021. Part 2, below, deals extensively with minutes from June 21, 2021. Ready? Let's roll...

June 21, 2021, Page 1

The PHMDC Data Team opens its huddle with an extensive discussion on reinfections and breakthroughs, starting with a report by Casey Schumann on the breakthroughs spreadsheet she'd been tasked with creating on April 13th. There's some suggestion that more precision is needed and how to perhaps achieve it. However, the news isn't good. Dane County's rising breakthrough rate prompts evident concern and a stream of questions. Here are the precise bullet points from the minutes:

  • Increasing number of cases=breakthrough. Expected? As more people become vaccinated. But as cases go down...still expected. Nearly 20% in June? Are we just finding a lot of false positives. Is Dane testing vaccinated people at a higher rate (pre-procedure, travel).

  • What are PHMDC criteria for testing, will it change?

  • Could this be an issue of having a small number of cases.

  • DHS has reported 0.03% of fully vaccinated Wisconsinites

  • Reinfections aren't included in the denominator of case counts. Same situation as case counts--routine testing, finding viral remnants. Median was 143 days. What to do with these data? Recommend people stop routine testing of people who have had COVID? We request these to be sequenced...many cannot be sequenced because the Ct value was too high. Reinfections should have a higher threshold for being called a case. No identifiable action...

See the screenshot of the meeting minutes, below, for verification:

There's more on page 2, but let's break down what we're seeing so far.

Little more than six months after the vaccination program has begun, PHMDC observes--and is clearly troubled by--a 20% breakthrough rate. Attempting to explain what they're seeing, the team initially considers whether:

  1. They're just finding a lot of false positives

  2. The vaccinated are perhaps being tested at a higher rate than the unvaccinated.

Both questions are actually important and reasonable, for reasons that we'll explore further below. However, the team subsequently begins grasping at straws. The notion that items such as pre-procedural and travel-related testing could, on their own or even combined, push Dane County's breakthrough rate into the 20% range, seems unlikely at best. Suggesting these possibilities gives the appearance that no one wants to consider the most straightforward and likely explanation: that the vaccines are not as effective as promised...and have already begun to fail.

The strangest and most desperate angle the Data Team considers is whether they could attribute the elevated breakthrough rate to a miniscule case rate in Dane County. Via a screenshot captured on the same day as the June 21st Data Team meeting, it's plain to see just how low cases had dropped:

But here's the thing: a roomful of epidemiologists and data analysts should know without even blinking that a high breakthrough rate emerging in a small sample size suggests a bigger problem with the vaccines, not a smaller one. It's as though they're short-circuiting and conveniently forgetting basic principles.

And grabbing on to DHS's reportedly low breakthrough rate...? That simply avoids a larger and more important consideration; by this date, PHMDC was reporting that 340,127 of eligible Dane County residents, or 62.2% were fully vaccinated--around 60% of the county's total population (561,504 per April 2020 U.S. Census estimate). Those are not small numbers or percentages--one of the first bits of knowledge the Data Team should lay on the table in its efforts to understand any underlying causes of the breakthrough trend they're seeing. Yet, it's clear they're hesitant--even resistant--to going there. Remember: PHMDC leverages its Data Team heavily in determining policy and communicating COVID "realities" to the public. But the Data Team doesn't even want to face reality squarely itself.

Note that the last bullet on the page contains several stunning admissions. PHMDC knows:

  1. Dane County experiences a high false positive rate.

  2. Routine testing has been subject to this high false-positive rate, frequently finding only non-threatening viral remnants.

  3. While PHMDC would find it helpful to sequence routine tests to gain insight and understanding, most cannot be sequenced to gain information, because they've already been run at too high a Cycle Threshold (Ct) value.

  4. Reinfections, in particular, merit a higher standard to be called a case but, more than 18 months into the COVID "crisis," have not received such consideration.

  5. The use of RT-PCR testing to "diagnose positive cases"--the principle method behind PHMDC's case counts--is unreliable.

Despite discussion of these realities behind closed doors, nowhere do we see that Public Health Director Janel Heinrich or the PHMDC Data Team had publicly acknowledged or attempted to resolve any of these five important issues. Why...?

Well, we're not mind-readers. However, one thing is abundantly clear: Any one of these admissions on its own would have called the COVID narrative into serious question had the public been made aware of the truth from the beginning. In combination, they had the power to strike a devastating blow to the notion that COVID ever necessitated the socially, psychologically, physically, and financially devastating policies PHMDC advanced and applied. In other words, NOT sharing these realities up front was irresponsible at best...and criminally fraudulent at worst.

June 21, 2021, Page 2

The Data Team's discussion of breakthrough cases also includes two data tables, which appear on page 2 of the June 21 meeting minutes. The first table deals specifically with breakthroughs, the second with reinfections. See the screenshot of page 2 below to consult these tables:

The first thing to consider about these tables is the denominators they use to achieve percentages. Both tables leverage the numbers in the "Total Confirmed" column. I have verified that these were confirmed COVID cases for each month. February through May all provide a full month's tally for total confirmed cases and breakthroughs or re-infections (depending on the table). However, the June data was not yet complete at the time of the meeting. confirmed cases is the correct denominator to use to calculate re-infection rates. However, to calculate breakthrough percentages correctly, PHMDC would need to use a different denominator. Using total cases as the denominator for breakthroughs erroneously assumes that everyone who showed up to get tested for COVID was vaccinated. Simply can't be true.

In order to calculate breakthough rate accurately, PHMDC would need to use as its denominator the number of Dane County residents each month who not only showed up to be tested and had a confirmed case of COVID...but also fit the definition of "fully vaccinated." That denominator will always necessarily be lower than total confirmed cases for any given month. Considering the responsibilities of this team, it's deeply concerning that no one notices this error on the part of one of their own members; these are professional epidemiologists and data analysts.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to sort out exactly how many people had supposedly completed a vaccination series during each month in question. The agency loves to give rates and percentages, but it's not terribly keen on providing actual numbers. I'm going to dig further to see what I can do to obtain those. But what we can assume is that the number of breakthrough cases in the county overall is greater than the number of vaccinated people who actually showed up to be tested and turned up positive.

Incidentally, we now know that a completed initial COVID vaccination series tends to max out around 6 months. Notice the median time PHMDC has observed between reinfections: 143 days. That's around 20 weeks...or 5 months. So, it would sure be interesting to know more about those reinfections the Data Team discusses and compares to breakthroughs.

In any case, despite the PHMDC Data Team's concern over what they believed to be a case rate approaching 20%, the agency still utters not a single word to the public for another several weeks.

So much more coming in Part 3. Stay tuned...

Recent Posts


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page