Delaware updating COVID reporting dashboard

DOVER — Due to a maintenance issue related to its electronic reporting system, the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) could not provide updated COVID-19 statistics on Wednesday.

Those statistics, which would reflect data as of Tuesday at 6 p.m., will be published today, along with new statistics as of Wednesday at 6 p.m. The data will not be combined into one day, staying separate to accurately reflect the updated information.

DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said on Tuesday the DPH will be updating its online dashboard to add another option to view statistics by using John Hopkins’ method for calculating percentage of positive cases.

The new dashboard would include both the DPH’s method and Johns Hopkins. Dr. Rattay said DPH’s method is based on numbers of Delawareans, where each Delawarean counted, “only once regardless of whether or not you had one test or 20 tests.”

Johns Hopkins meanwhile takes the positive cases and divides them all by tests done.

“To do it the Hopkins way when we get to doing that will show a decreased number so you will see the number go down when we start doing it that way,” Dr. Rattay said.

Part of the state’s COVID-19 data collection and reporting involves auditing and maintenance as it continues to evolve. The DPH recently completed an audit that removed duplicate records from its surveillance systems.

The DPH also completed a review of the death certifications in the Delaware Vital Events Registration System in August, which ended up adding five additional COVID-19 related deaths to Delaware’s total.

“The purpose of this review was to ensure that DPH is accurately capturing the total number of COVID-19-related deaths based on both epidemiology surveillance and death certificate data,” the DPH said at the time.

Nationally, Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness has organized a bipartisan coalition of fiscal watchdogs, who have banded together to try to help make sure states are compiling and tracking COVID-19 information the same way, according to reporting by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The state auditors will take a close look at how health officials in their own states are collecting, reporting and monitoring data. The goals are to ensure information presented to the public is consistent and accurate, to allow apples-to-apples comparisons among states and to help officials get a better handle on the issue if the pandemic gets worse in the coming months or there is another disaster in the future.

“This is an audit for the people. I believe it can save lives,” Ms. McGuiness told Stateline. “This can help us understand the pandemic’s progression and how to better guide public health actions. And it’s a real opportunity for transparency.”

So far, auditors from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 11 states — from Hawaii to Louisiana — have joined the effort. The auditors plan to release the findings from their states to the public as soon as their work is completed.

Ms. McGuiness convened in May a national task force of five state auditors’ offices, including Delaware’s. She asked them to designate staff to be part of a working group.

The groups met virtually once or twice a week. By July, they had developed a template that auditors could use to determine how states were reporting and monitoring COVID-19 data.

Auditors who use the framework will try to find out whether states collected information such as the type of tests used, the results and case information such as gender, race, exposure source and outcome. They also will look into guidance states give testing entities, how information is to be reported and whether it is timely.

Auditors also would try to determine whether results include information such as the number of positive and negative tests, recoveries and deaths and the source of exposure. They also will ask whether states monitored or sampled testing procedures and data to ensure accuracy and how they contacted and monitored people who tested positive.

Government and media reports played a role in how the groups developed the questions, said McGuiness, who also is a pharmacist. One team member has done extensive research in epidemiology and another has a health policy background, and they helped distill information and get input from other states, she added.

“Not only is it good for states but eventually, we’ll be able to compare and contrast and maybe get some great ideas from another state rather than reinvent the wheel,” McGuiness told Stateline. “Knowledge is power. It can be useful for policymakers and any health officials. I can’t tell you one state that hasn’t seen room for improvement.”

Reporting from Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts was used in this story.

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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