Two of the biggest cuts went into effect this week, with Florida moving to one update per week and Alabama to two to three updates per week, depending on the type of data.
Along with Alabama’s decision to release updates less frequently comes a steady decline in daily cases, deaths and hospitalizations, Dr. Karen Landers, head of health in the Department of Health, told CNN. of State.
“The changes are smaller and less dramatic, for lack of a better word,” she said. “It’s time to refocus our efforts.
Indeed, the average daily Covid-19 cases in Alabama have fallen by about 93% since their peak in January. The state has reported an average of 321 cases per day over the past week and 12 deaths per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Some experts believe that the abandonment of daily reports is happening too soon.
“As far as I know, we are still in a public health emergency as a country,” Lori Tremmel Freeman, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN Wednesday. “It hasn’t been downgraded yet. “
Beth Blauer, executive director of the Johns Hopkins University Centers for Civic Impact, says she expected such an adjustment, but it is happening sooner and more aggressively than she anticipated.
Johns Hopkins University has become a vital information source throughout the pandemic, compiling various data streams into a single, centralized data center.
Blauer said she and her team pay close attention to public posts and other updates from states regarding their Covid-19 data to manage the quality and consistency of their data feeds. They noticed subtle changes in the fall as states began to cut back reporting over the weekend, but she said she was surprised at how strong the trend was.
“You wouldn’t be human if you hadn’t felt pandemic fatigue,” Blauer told CNN. “But I think it’s a bit premature. “
Consistent, daily data reports can draw attention to subtle changes that might be missed with less frequent updates.
“It gives a much more detailed view of what’s going on. This helps public health officials better understand if this is a temporary spike or if it requires intervention, ”Blauer said.
And while studies of vaccine effectiveness hold great promise, some people, including those who are immunocompromised or young children who are not yet eligible for vaccination, still face risks.
Daily data reports provide essential “back-up” information to help people and officials make decisions about the safety of engaging in various social activities, Blauer said.
NACCHO’s Freeman agrees.
“We have yet to determine what collective immunity really looks like,” she said. This point “might be a good timeframe to consider” to reduce data tracking or maybe there’s another set of metrics to consider, she said, but “I don’t think there is. it is now ”.
As Alabama has reduced its public reporting on Covid-19 data – the main monitoring dashboard will be updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and updates to the vaccination dashboard will be released on Tuesdays and Thursdays – the State plans to continue the internal data reviewed on a daily basis.
“We will still monitor the data on a daily basis. It won’t change, ”Landers said. “But in terms of extended processing for external use and visualization, there are ways to better utilize the talents of the team. “
The general public has relied on public data in an unprecedented way throughout the pandemic.
In Maryland, an average of about 20,000 people visited the state’s Covid-19 dashboard each day over the past month. This is down from around 50,000 daily visitors a year ago, but still represents about one in 10 state residents visiting a government data dashboard in a month.
“As people look at their own communities, they make decisions every day about what to do and how to do it,” Dr Cliff Mitchell, director of the Department of Health’s Office of Environmental Health, told CNN. from Maryland. “We believe that (continuing to publish daily data) is the best way to keep our state and our community informed on how things are going. “
Maryland had one of the lowest per capita new case rates over the past week, according to JHU data. But unlike Alabama, Maryland doesn’t see this as a reason to cut back and doesn’t have a benchmark in mind.
“At this point, we haven’t discussed a change in the reporting model,” Mitchell said.
For Johns Hopkins University Blauer, the benefits of regular and transparent public sector reporting extend far beyond the pandemic.
“States have spent 15-18 months building this infrastructure and, in a truly amazing way, have positioned themselves to be the standard bearers of how information is shared with the public, while building trust,” she declared.
“As you slow down, the question is, what will happen to this new infrastructure and these new skills? By putting that genius back in the bottle, we lose the ability to leverage it, ”perhaps redirecting them to address other pervasive and enduring challenges such as violent crime.
Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.