Count us as among those still struggling to process the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on the lives of Americans and the economy.
While we have questions about the steps taken by various states to control the spread of the virus, in the midst of the crisis we are willing to give the elected leadership the benefit of the doubt that these extraordinary steps are necessary.
But those same leaders must press their bureaucracies to be more transparent with data regarding the spread of the outbreak and the status of those infected, critical information that can help the public accurately evaluate the emergency and put it into context.
To date they have fallen woefully short.
To its credit, the Oregon Health Authority, after repeated questions from reporters, has greatly increased the amount of data it’s sharing with the public.
Along with a cumulative total of those who have tested positive, it totals the number that have tested negative, the number that have been hospitalized and the number put on ventilators. There is a wealth of demographic data about the gender and ages of those known to have been infected. Of course, there’s the grim total of those who have died.
Because the data is cumulative from when the outbreak was identified in January, the numbers continue to grow showing the broad scope of the disease’s progression.
But how many who have tested positive have gotten better? How many who have been hospitalized have been released and sent home? OHA says it can’t say, because it doesn’t know.
Some states are doing more. Iowa, for example, is charting how many patients have been discharged and are recovering. The state of Minnesota reports the number of total cases that have required hospitalization, and the number in the hospital today, making it easy to figure out how many have recovered.
We appreciate that health officials are dealing with an ongoing emergency. Daily cumulative totals of those who test positive and those who die don’t offer a complete picture of the ongoing outbreak. Alone these figures do more to scare the public than inform it.