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Public Health Experts Decry Some States' Increasingly Infrequent COVID-19 Data Reports

A screenshot of the IDOH's covid-19 map on June 15 2021

(June 15 screenshot of coronavirus.in.gov)

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) announced last week it would stop updating its COVID-19 case and vaccine dashboards on Sundays, calling the daily updates "less crucial" as new COVID-19 cases in the state reach all-time lows.

In an email, IDOH spokesperson Megan Wade-Taxter said that though the Sunday reports will stop, the state will continue to collect daily data and assign new cases and deaths to their corresponding dates.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have increased the amount of data we collect and display to give Hoosiers a full view of the pandemic and its impact on Indiana," Wade-Taxter wrote. "As case counts decline, it is becoming less crucial to report that information daily."

And case counts are indeed declining. On Monday, IDOH reported 140 new COVID-19 cases - the lowest number since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Indiana isn't the only state that has recently dialed back the frequency of its COVID-19 data dumps. According to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center, Wisconsin and Tennessee both report their COVID-19 data five days a week. Alabama and Kansas report three days per week. And Florida publishes its statewide COVID-19 data just once a week.

But one expert says state and federal health authorities' ability to respond quickly to virus outbreaks depends on daily data reporting.

"We Need A Daily Data Dump"

In a June 7 post, Johns Hopkins Centers for Civic Impact Executive Director Beth Blauer cited Michigan's tamping-down of a spike in COVID hospitalizations in mid-March as an example of the benefit of daily data reporting.

Michigan state health officials noticed an upward trend in hospitalizations and were able to round up vaccines and health workers to administer the shots in time to prevent the outbreak from worsening. 

"If data had only been provided with one-week resolution...then the trend shift is not necessarily clear until later," Blauer wrote.

And because states report data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention often don't have access to, Blauer wrote, it is crucial that states continue to work in tandem with federal health officials to report and share data.

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