Delaware auditor: COVID data dashboard could be improved

DOVER — Delaware’s publicly available COVID-19 data dashboard contains many useful statistics and indicators but could be improved, a new report from Auditor Kathy McGuiness’ office states.

The dashboard, available at myhealthycommunity.dhss.delaware.gov, offers information on total cases, deaths, hospitalizations and more, including breaking some of them down by age, race and gender. Still, a more comprehensive dashboard with data and other details such as how many people are wearing face coverings in public, test turnaround time and weekly cases among health care workers would be helpful to the public, the findings from the auditor’s office say.

While the state offers a weekly count of COVID-related deaths at long-term care facilities, the report calls for breaking it down further and also including correctional facilities and homeless shelters.

Additionally, providing more explanation behind decisions, such as what data to include in the dashboard and what triggers state officials base their decision-making on, would be valuable, the report says. It also recommends adding targeted messaging for specific populations, especially high-risk ones, as well as “a mechanism to capture, assess, and report on public perceptions and concerns, as well as information on misinformation, disinformation and rumors to help raise awareness and cooperation with mitigation strategies.”

The report notes the dashboard has evolved since the first coronavirus case here in March. Race data, for instance, was not publicly available for the first few months, and the dashboard now contains information on the various criteria governing school reopenings.

Health officials have described the tool as evolving as the pandemic continues, and some of the information added since the initial rollout has come at least in part in response to public criticism.

Wednesday’s report referenced a July analysis from the nonprofit Vital Strategies that analyzed how each state was providing data on COVID. Unlike many countries, there has not been a consistent national standard for what statistics are tracked, creating inconsistencies among states.

The Vital Strategies findings ranked Delaware as better than average in its data collection and publication, pointing out the First State is one of the few with information on syndromic surveillance indicators.

“There was no national plan to prepare states for responding to the pandemic. It’s a failure in governance and leadership from the federal government by all accounts,” reads a summary from Ms. McGuiness, a Democrat elected in 2018.

“Delaware is in a unique situation, but its uniqueness should not be an excuse for not wanting to pull back the curtain to evaluate our state’s performance. The report is what it is – limited in precision and depth – because my office was directed to go to websites for information.

“I acknowledge that Delaware is in the mist (sic) a health and fiscal emergency, but as the state’s fiscal watchdog it is my duty to ensure quality data drives decision-making and communications are transparent particularly when it involves the people’s money. This report includes areas my office identified for improvement. I’m hopeful the necessary controls will be put in place for better data and better decisions, both for state government and the public.”

The auditor’s findings are available at bit.ly/39vT6Ou.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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