Governor must change course on COVID data collection

Have you ever played hide and seek with a toddler who “hides” by covering their eyes? I have. I explained that even if they don’t see m...

Have you ever played hide and seek with a toddler who “hides” by covering their eyes? I have. I explained that even if they don’t see me, that doesn’t mean I’m not there. The lack of visibility didn’t make either of us disappear.

This is the feeling I had last week in reaction to the Baker administration’s misguided decisions to stop collecting and reporting specific COVID-19 data. Eliminating hospitalization data by race, ethnicity and age blurs the impact of the virus on communities of color and limits knowledge of serious COVID-related illnesses in children.

Lack of information undermines our efforts to develop evidence-based, equity-anchored interventions and hinders the development of targeted public health policies. A lack of data does not mean a lack of impact.

Like many, I was also surprised and confused by media reports that the Baker administration will not monitor or report COVID outbreaks in schools during the 2021-22 school year. This is troubling for parents, guardians and communities as we prepare for the resumption of face-to-face learning. If implemented, this decision will skew our knowledge of what is happening in schools and could threaten our ability to provide safe face-to-face learning.

To date, the Baker administration has not corrected, confirmed, denied or responded to the information.

These decisions by the Baker administration to cover their eyes – and, by extension, ours – as we see a growing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations statewide, undermine our efforts to understand the current pandemic and compromise our ability to create data. policies to address them. This current increase is mainly attributed to the highly contagious and dangerous delta variant. This series of decisions is a treacherous punch, creating a significant void in the assessment of the impact of delta in the Commonwealth.

Epidemiologists are private public health detectives and can unravel the mystery of the disease. They follow the path of a virus and register those it infects, sickens and kills. This monitoring process and the resulting information help to understand viral behavior. This knowledge is the basis of an effective policy. It can also raise awareness in the community, promote prevention, strengthen immunization practices and mobilize for action. Later it can be used to assess our response.

It is clear that despite reasonable vaccination rates in some communities in Massachusetts, the presence of the delta variant requires our continued vigilance, investigation, and understanding. We cannot simply stop collecting and sharing crucial data about this virus while it is in our communities and is spreading rapidly.

We have an obligation to provide our communities, school districts and parents / guardians with the information they deserve and need to know. Given the vulnerability of the K-12 population, data collection is even more critical since the administration decided to reject recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Department of Education that students, teachers, staff, and visitors wear masks indoors.

If municipalities are required to make decisions about indoor mask wear on their own, as the Baker administration has suggested, we must provide the resources they need to inform those decisions.

When I was doing AIDS education earlier in my professional career, I opened the conversation about the importance of data and surveillance with the question: if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear his fall, does he make a noise? In the world of public health, collecting and reporting data is how we amplify the sound of falling trees. It is a way of “hearing” the impact of the crisis.

In the AIDS epidemic, it has also been useful in countering the slowness of our country’s response. He raised awareness of the shared risk. Data coupled with the experience of our communities and residents can force individual, collective and government action.

Much of the data we have had to review so far has resulted from action by the legislature and advocacy organizations. Governor Baker must overturn these most recent decisions. Deciding to stop or suspend data collection and sharing at this critical stage undermines our efforts to respond fairly and effectively to the pandemic, stifles our calls for individual prevention and immunization, loses the knowledge we might have and increase anxiety and stress among our residents.

Failure to collect and share data does not make the pandemic or its impact go away. This only puts our efforts to combat it at a disadvantage.

Mindy Domb, State Representative for Hampshire 3rd District, has represented the communities of Amherst, Pelham and Granby First Ward in the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 2019.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Governor must change course on COVID data collection
Governor must change course on COVID data collection
Newsrust - US Top News
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