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COVID-19 Viewed Through a New Lens

Feb 24, 2022 | Latest News, Public Health

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COVID-19 is not going to disappear any time soon. But as we learn to live with it, we can find new ways to look at it and learn about it.
Last week, we reported 199 new COVID-19 cases over the holiday weekend in Benton and Franklin Counties on Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, we reported 82 cases. Thursday, it was 40.

We’ve regularly posted this information since almost 2 years ago, in March 2020.

Ask yourself: Did those numbers tell you anything useful?

Each new case means the virus has spread still further in our community. Each new hospitalization places more stress on our system. And each new death is a tragedy—most often, a preventable one.

At Benton-Franklin Health District, we want to share information you can use and act on. The daily reporting of cases, hospitalizations and deaths is consistent—and slowly improving—but it is not offering much that helps you navigate life with COVID-19.

The pandemic is not over. We need to do more as a community to get people vaccinated, reduce the number of cases, decrease the burden on our hospital systems, keep kids in schools and keep businesses open.

That is why we think it’s time to rethink our reporting.

In public health, our goal is always to provide reliable, practical data.

When the pandemic started to get real, our community asked us for the basics: how the new disease was spreading, who it was affecting, and who was most at risk.

As time went on, we and the Department of Health (DOH) used data to decide what measures we needed to take to keep you as safe as possible. We added more metrics and dashboards to keep you informed.

Over time, providing these numbers daily has become less meaningful. Currently, our epidemiologists are so busy providing this data each day, they do not have much time to respond to data requests, analyze trends telling us where we are and where we are headed or analyze health impacts other than COVID.

 New focus for the next stage.

Starting next month, we will report relevant data twice a week.

  • Tuesday: Case rates, hospitalizations
  • Thursday: Case rates, hospitalizations and deaths

You will notice some changes to this reporting. Our graph of cases will show a daily count with a 7-day average line.  That will align with the State DOH rate and provide a cleaner look at trends over time.

We will continue to report cases based on the day people were tested (specimen collection date). Sometimes, labs get backed up and send in a large batch of cases spanning days, weeks or even months. Telling you when people tested positive will give you a more accurate look at the spread of COVID-19 over time.

This means we will be removing some metrics that have grown less useful and streamlining others. You can still find most of this data on the state’s dashboard, which is linked on our page. Outbreak and Vaccine Breakthrough reports will continue to be produced.

Room to bring you more useful numbers.

You will see us roll out these changes starting March 1st when we will report the 7-day average rates.

Monday, February 28th, you will see our final daily case count. We will continue to provide a weekly count by county.

We will also be able to zoom out and tell you about trends. How did this week’s cases compare to the last several weeks, for instance? Are we in a new wave or are case rates smoothing out? Are hospitals filling up again or is the pressure easing?

Hope for the day we can stop reporting on COVID-19.

COVID-19 is not going to disappear any time soon. But as we learn to live with it, we can find new ways to look at it and learn about it.

We can all take steps to bring this to an end. Most importantly: make sure your family is vaccinated. Everyone age 5 and older is eligible.

And you can do even more to help keep our community safe:

  • Fight the flu, and get your flu shot
  • Wear your mask
  • If you’re sick, stay home
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Get tested if you experience symptoms or were exposed
  • Get vaccinated

As always, your local health district will continue to think through our approach to make sure we provide the data and insights you need.

 

Adapted from Tacoma Pierce Health Department

More News:

What is my risk? How to use COVID-19 data to stay safe

What is my risk? How to use COVID-19 data to stay safe

In earlier days of the pandemic, looking at the number of COVID-19 cases in our community and whether it was rising or falling was a reliable indicator of risk. But that has changed. Case numbers are not as reliable now because a lot of people are testing positive with home tests and they are not always reported to public health.

“Test to Treat” program offers easy access to COVID-19 treatment

“Test to Treat” program offers easy access to COVID-19 treatment

Oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies became available in our community a few months ago. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t sure if we qualify or when to begin those treatments. Others simply don’t have a primary healthcare provider to ask. Test to Treat aims to remove those barriers.

Everything you’re asking us about at-home COVID testing

Everything you’re asking us about at-home COVID testing

Reporting your at-home test results is now easier than ever! The Benton-Franklin Health District has developed a simple online self-reporting form that can be accessed from the district’s web page in both English and Spanish on any of the District’s COVID web pages in the top magenta bar.