Mayor Jon Mitchell said Monday that state public health officials seem to be under-reporting the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city of New Bedford.

Over the weekend, the city’s health department discovered that positive case numbers delivered by the state were much lower than the number of cases the city knew about from healthcare providers, Mitchell wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.

"As of this morning, with the help of our regional healthcare providers, our Health Department has now tracked more than 250 positive cases in New Bedford, which is significantly higher than the figure reported by the state," the mayor wrote.

In contrast, on Monday the state reported 188 positive cases in New Bedford, a city of 95,000. Mitchell said he believes New Bedford is not the only Massachusetts community to experience the data discrepancy.

Mitchell on Twitter attributed the problem to an apparent delay somewhere in the state's reporting pipeline:

Mitchell said the city has reported the issue to the state and suggested that "there may be a delay on the part of one or more private testing labs in reporting testing results to the state." The state is working to fix the reporting problem, Mitchell added.

"We are reporting this discrepancy (to the public) not as a criticism of anyone," Mitchell wrote in his Facebook post. "Everyone is working hard to manage a public health crisis the likes of which we have not faced in our lifetime."

He said instead, his data gap announcement is aligned with the city's pledge "to be faithful to our practice of pushing out relevant information to the public."

Mitchell said he is concerned that inaccurate totals may suggest that the “curve” of viral transmission in Greater New Bedford is beginning to flatten, when in fact it is not.

The mayor said even though numbers in the New Bedford region are lower than other urban areas in the state, the virus is still spreading, the number of cases is still growing, and the curve is not flattening.

"So it bears emphasizing: now is not the time to relax on the social distancing and other measures that have been effective in our city and region," he concluded.

Mitchell said he will continue to update the public in an effort to help keep everyone safe. So far the city has experienced nine COVID-19 deaths.

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