Nebraska to resume reporting coronavirus statistics

Two weeks after Nebraska quit publicly reporting daily coronavirus statistics, the state is developing a new website to provide weekly updates.
NEBRASKA

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Two weeks after Nebraska quit publicly reporting daily coronavirus statistics, the state is developing a new website to provide weekly updates.

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday what numbers will be included on the new site or when it will be ready. The state’s decision to stop providing daily COVID-19 updates was widely criticized by health experts who use the data to track the virus’ spread.

“I don’t think that was a well-timed decision,” said Dr. James Lawler, who is one of the leaders of the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “I think that if you are trying to drive down a rivet at night in the rain, blindfolding yourself is probably not the best idea.”

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Barb Tyler said the state’s new website will be updated on Wednesdays with some of the latest information about the virus’ spread.

Nebraska is not alone in changing what virus data it reports, but most states have continued to update their online COVID-19 dashboards. Iowa and South Dakota recently switched to reporting virus data only on a weekly basis.

When Nebraska stopped reporting virus statistics late last month, the state Department of Health and Human Services said it was retiring its online dashboard that reported the latest statistics on virus cases, hospitalizations and vaccinations because Gov. Pete Ricketts was ending the state’s official virus emergency on June 30.

Nebraska officials said data on the pandemic will still be available through public records requests, and they said statistics on the virus’ spread are available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But they said the data reported on those sites may differ from what the state had been reporting. And television station KETV reported that its public records request for COVID-19 case and vaccination numbers was denied.

In the weeks since the state stopped providing the figures, Nebraska has seen cases nearly double as the highly contagious delta variant of the virus spreads. CDC figures showed 489 cases last week, up from 456 the week before and 253 cases two weeks earlier.

Nationwide, the average number of new cases doubled over the past three weeks, going from 11,300 a day on June 23 to about 23,600 a day on Monday.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has more than doubled over the past two weeks from 43 new cases per day on June 28 to 86.29 new cases per day on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The CDC said 48.2% of the state’s population has now been fully vaccinated against the virus, which ranks 24th among all the states.

Lawler said the state virus dashboards have been a valuable source of information throughout the pandemic even though the data reported in each state has varied. For instance, he said, only about half the states are reporting cumulative hospitalization data by age groups, so it’s not clear how many children have been hospitalized.

“We have to extrapolate and do estimates to try and arrive at that number. In 2021, that’s just nuts. There’s no excuse,” Lawler said. “I’ve rarely seen a situation where more data is a bad thing — and certainly not in emergencies.”

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