Depending on which part of the state Health Department’s website you look at, you might find contradictory coronavirus stats.

Questions like “what number of people died from coronavirus between April 12 and April 19?” or “How many people contracted the coronavirus in March?” can lead to one answer in one location, and another answer in a different location, and both might change the following day. Several readers have expressed confusion over the numbers.

Each day, the state reports several “topline” figures: COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations and tests. The figures represent what totals the state has recorded for each metric, to date. They are the most immediately up-to-date figures. But further down the webpage, the same metrics are graphed over time, showing how deaths, for instance, have grown since early March. But the metrics graphed on that page are subject to change and are regularly updated as more information is learned. For example, looking at “deaths by date of death” will show higher deaths than the daily tracked numbers for days further in the past, and will undercount the most recent days. The same goes for the cases tracked and reported each day by the state, compared to the “cases by onset date” or “cases by date reported to the state.”

The retroactively adjusted numbers should eventually be the most accurate, but dates two weeks ago are still being adjusted now, and the most recent figures are far below where they will end up. The daily snapshot data represents what total numbers were reported at the time, even if they were lagging behind more precise dates of occurrence.

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