The Arizona Department of Health Services is in the process of looking for additional ways to provide better, more informative data to the state as they battle the COVID-19 outbreak.
Each day, the Arizona Department of Health Services website provides a daily update on Arizona reported cases and details are broken out at the county level.
As of April 12th, those details are expected to change. The Arizona Department of Health Services plans to begin providing “enhanced location information” about all confirmed cases across the state.
Department director Cara Christ told reporters she isn’t sure if the data will be broken down by ZIP code or primary care area. Christ said the department will base the decision on which will provide better, more informative data.
In addition, the state also has asked hospitals to report the number of intubations, ventilators and personal protective equipment used each day. In addition, they are asking hospitals, intensive care units and ER’s to report the number of suspected COVID-19 cases per hospital.
Residents should be aware that the data will not be perfect, but it should be helpful in determining the areas that are hit the hardest. In addition, Arizona health officials needs this next level of information to help plan its response for an expected peak of cases and hospitalizations for April and May.
Many officials have been reluctant to release the data broken out by zip code for fear it could give residents a false sense of security if their area wasn’t showing a high number of confirmed cases. However the virus is everywhere and people throughout the entire state should treat it as such. The purpose in the specific area reporting is to let first responders and healthcare officials know how to better prepare. More information will help officials better understand, which will help make better decisions as they navigate these uncharted waters. This data will be essential in understanding the peak of the virus and will be useful when our state starts to move into the direction of reopening businesses and permitting events to resume.
It is important to understand that the new state data will have limitations. While Arizona has greatly improved the testing capability, according to Christ, we still aren’t able to test everyone who has symptoms.
Partners such as Walgreens and NextCare which have stepped up to provide drive thru testing will help, but there is still a need to continue to improve the testing portion of this pandemic. While Arizona is lagging in this area, we are not the only state struggling with this. With the struggles in testing across the nation, the data is not giving a true understanding on the exact widespread transmission and exactly which states are doing a better job and containing the virus.
Publicly reporting ZIP code and the additional primary care data won’t exactly provide all the answers in this fight, but should help add an additional step to better inform our officials and citizens about the impact of this disease in our communities.