For Dr. Matt Dunn, chief medical officer at North Conway Memorial Hospital, data has been a vital tool in the fight against COVID-19.
Every day, he consults global data on new variants and other modeling data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. He also religiously checks New Hampshire’s online COVID-19 dashboard.
Having reliable numbers on the spread of COVID-19 — and the evolution of the virus — helps Dunn and other hospital leaders make staffing decisions and plan for potential strains on their healthcare system. . But that data is getting harder and harder to navigate.
New Hampshire health officials recently stopped issuing daily COVID-19 updates, a component of their pandemic response since the pandemic began; instead, they release weekly data notes and post other updates to their online dashboard.
State officials said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to trust and track individual test results as more people test at home and don’t report those results to health authorities. public. They are also working on a new public wastewater monitoring project, which will show changes in COVID levels in cities and towns across the state, but it’s not live yet.
The state’s decision to scale back its daily COVID-19 data updates has sparked some frustration among local health officials.
“I think going back to a daily report would be very helpful,” Androscoggin Valley Hospital President Mike Peterson said during a recent call with other health care providers across the north.
At Memorial Hospital, Dunn became increasingly dependent on internal data to fill in the gaps left by the state and federal government.
After more than two years of this pandemic, Dunn said he can use historical data to make predictions about how the hospital will need to respond to potential surges. For example, if the test positivity rate in the region approaches 20%, he knows that many staff absences are likely to follow.
Based on the numbers he’s currently looking at, including increasing test positivity in clinics with his health care system, Dunn predicts things will get worse before they start to get better.
“In the next few weeks, we will probably have personnel or resource constraints,” he said. “And we’re going to have challenges, I think, with transfers.”
In Manchester, Elliot Hospital’s chief medical officer Dr Kevin Desrosiers said he was still using state testing data to help predict trends – assuming it would be a significant undercount.
But Desrosiers said it’s been difficult to make accurate predictions throughout the pandemic, especially with so many factors changing between each outbreak: new variants, vaccines and treatments. This is just the last challenge.
And while some of the data is murky, Desrosiers has been buoyed by at least one trend over the past few months.
“Despite the fact that we have admitted many [COVID patients]“, he said, “our intensive care activity has been minimal.