As the US pandemic calms down, more and more states have started updating the frequency of their dashboards to keep track of what is happening to the virus.
The steps are causing alarms among many public health experts.
“One of the most worrying trends recently has been that states are making the choice to either slow down or stop their reporting,” says Beth Blauerwho helps run the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University, a leading source of information on the pandemic.
“I think it’s perfectly appropriate for us to celebrate the progress we’ve made, but we’re still very much navigating a pandemic. We have not yet reached the point where we can mark the victory, ”said Blauer.
At least two dozen states which, according to Johns Hopkins, has stopped updating daily the number of people who contract the virus, are hospitalized and die. Some stopped reporting anything over the weekend. Others cut down to just a few times a week. Florida is the last state to be visited only once a week – Oklahoma is another that has cut coverage to once a week.
State officials are defending the changes that will allow public health workers to focus limited resources where they are most needed, such as: B. improving data quality and promoting vaccinations.
“As our cases went down and our vaccination rates went up, it made more sense for us to go to weekly coverage for certain things,” says Jolianne Stone, the epidemiologist for the Oklahoma Department of Health. “We still have a pulse of what’s happening to COVID here in Oklahoma. And I’m very confident.”
However, Blauer and others fear that a cut in daily coverage could leave these states in the dark of new outbreaks until it’s too late, especially where vaccinations remain very low.
“Without this kind of high-fidelity full view of information, we really won’t end up being able to respond appropriately from a public health perspective,” says Blauer.
For Oklahomas Stone, the move makes sense given the limited public health resources in their state. “We used to get as little information as possible and try to report it as soon as possible, and it just wasn’t as accurate as we’d like,” says Stone. “This allows our employees to concentrate on the vaccination.”
Other state officials also defend the decision to reduce reporting.
“We don’t think this will change that response at all,” says Dr. Karen Landers, an assistant health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, who reduced reporting to three days a week. “We will continue to monitor the pandemic very closely and respond appropriately to the pandemic from the start.”
It might be time to think about monitoring COVID more like the flu rather than counting every case, argues Dr. Marcus Plescia, Chief Medical Officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “Things are very, very different now than they were six months ago. And we also have to think about how we should distribute resources.”
However, there are concerns that it is simply too early to make this change, especially as more dangerous variants, such as the Delta variant, first discovered in India, are becoming more widespread in the United States
“When you turn off the light, you can’t see what’s going on William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
“If this virus taught us one thing is that it’s like being in one of those movies where you think the bad guy is defeated and then come back and do one final attack,” says Hanage.
“Even though I think we’ve pretty much licked this virus off, that doesn’t mean we can’t take our eyes off the ball just yet.”