O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — With the number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization rising at alarming levels, Missouri and perhaps a handful of other states are unable to post accurate data on COVID-19 dashboards because of a flaw in the federal reporting system.
Since Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service’s coronavirus dashboard has posted a message that the total number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has been underreported since Oct. 17. The note blamed “challenges entering data” to the portal used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for collecting daily hospitalizations around the country.
It wasn’t immediately clear on Friday how many states are impacted since some states rely on their own hospitalization counts, not HHS data collection. HHS did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.
But The COVID Tracking Project said in a blog post that it has “identified five other states with anomalies in their hospitalization figures” that could be tied to the HHS reporting problem.
The project noted that the number of reported intensive care unit patients in Kansas had decreased from 80 to one without explanation. It said Wisconsin’s hospitalization figures stayed unexpectedly flat while other indicators worsened. And it said Georgia, Alabama, and Florida reported only partial updates to hospitalization data.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Kristi Zears confirmed that the “ICU admission data displayed on our website is not current. We did post a notice on our dashboard today to convey that as well. We anticipate the issue will be resolved for our Monday update.”
A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said the state’s reporting was accurate, with the number of hospitalizations holding steady for one day, Wednesday, before rising again on Thursday. A Georgia Department of Public Health spokeswoman said the department was unaware of any problems with its data. Health department representatives in the other states mentioned in the blog didn’t immediately respond to Associated Press requests for comment.
In Missouri, the loss of accurate hospitalization data comes as confirmed cases continue to rise. On Friday, Missouri reported 1,811 new cases of COVID-19, and 31 additional deaths. Since the onset of the pandemic, Missouri has cited 164,534 confirmed cases and 2,688 deaths.
Missouri also has seen a steady rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations since September. The state reached record levels of hospitalizations several times earlier this month, with every region except St. Louis seeing record or near-record spikes. Since July 7, when 375 people were hospitalized statewide, that number has nearly quadrupled to a peak of 1,465 hospitalizations on Oct. 14.
The problem is especially worrisome in rural areas, where some hospitals are nearing capacity. Others are using makeshift buildings or previously vacant hospital wings to serve overflow patients. Some are simply redirecting people to larger hospitals.
State health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the federal hospital reporting system, known as TeleTracking, went down. “As a result they experienced underreporting – so hospitalization numbers were lower than they should’ve
Daily case numbers are at levels not seen since the summer, and 14 states recently have set hospitalization records
Daily coronavirus case numbers in the US are at levels not seen since the summer, and more than a dozen states set record highs for Covid-19 hospitalizations in the past week — yet more evidence, experts say, of a difficult fall and winter ahead.
The country’s seven-day average of new daily cases was above 58,300 as of Monday — a level not seen since the first week of August, and climbing closer to the summer’s peak of 67,200 on July 22.
Average daily cases have soared 70% since September 12, when the country was at a two-month low of about 34,300.
As cold weather is likely to drive more gatherings indoors, the case level appears too high to avoid dangerous levels of infections and hospitalizations in the coming weeks, experts have said.
“(With) the fact that we’re only going to see more transmission occur with indoor air, people inside, this is going to be a rough fall,” Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN on Tuesday.
Case rates and hospitalizations are rising especially in the Midwest, Great Plains and parts of the West.
Fourteen states reported their peak Covid-19 hospitalizations in the last week: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
The virus’s prevalence is bad enough that the director for the National Institutes for Health says his family won’t gather for Thanksgiving this year.
“It is just not safe to take that kind of chance with people coming from different parts of the country of uncertain status,” Dr. Francis Collins told National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” on Tuesday. “The problem with this disease is it is so easy for people to be infected and not know it, and then spread it to the ones next to them without realizing it.”
“All of this, I’m afraid, happens because we have not succeeded in this country in introducing really effective public health measures,” Collins said.
“Simple things that we all could be doing: Wear your mask, keep that six foot distance, and don’t congregate indoors, whatever you do, and wash your hands. And yet people are tired of it and yet the virus is not tired of us,” Collins said.
The country has now topped 220,000 Covid-19 deaths, a number some experts worry may also begin to climb faster.
“The numbers are moving in the wrong direction,” Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins