Chris Rogers

by Chris Rogers, editor

 

Last week, there was a big change in how local COVID data is reported in Minnesota, and the Post’s COVID updates are going to look a little different and come out on a different schedule as a result.

Every day for the past two years, we’ve collected local COVID data from government websites. And nearly every issue for the past two years, graphs showing the trendlines for local COVID infections have appeared on the page opposite this one. 

Even during the first year of the pandemic, we heard from plenty of readers who did not care for this information and probably would be happy to never hear the word “COVID” again. We continued to include it because we knew other readers found it valuable to get up-to-date information about how many infections were going around their local community and used that to make informed decisions about what risks they would take.

Last week, the Minnesota of Department Health (MDH) switched from reporting COVID cases on a daily basis to a weekly basis. Now, instead of getting a daily total of new infections every day, we get a weekly total every week. It comes out on Thursdays with data from the prior week. For example, on Thursday, June 30, we got the total number of new Winona County COVID cases for the week of June 19-26. Ironically, this means the date on this week’s chart, June 26, (see page 5B) is actually older than last week’s chart, June 28. In fairness to MDH, because of some differences in how the new data is presented (it’s dated by specimen collection date instead of the reported-by-MDH date), the data itself is more or less as recent as last week’s. But it’s still over a week old.

MDH officials said the change was to make their COVID reporting efforts more sustainable. In an email, MDH spokesman Garry Bowman expounded, “The public health community has scaled up surveillance, data reporting, and disease control measures to an unprecedented level during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now transitioning our work to a phase where we are living with and managing COVID-19 like we do other infectious diseases while remaining flexible and ready to scale up our response to deal with outbreaks and/or surges that might arise. COVID-19 is not going anywhere, but we need to continue to transition to more sustainable surveillance and reporting that aligns with how we monitor other infectious diseases (e.g., flu). Additionally, we need to have the resources and capacity to attend to other public health issues (e.g., highly pathogenic avian influenza, monkeypox, measles, acute hepatitis in children, etc.).” I’d argue the change is likely also a reflection of the rise of very convenient, albeit less accurate, rapid tests, which has made this data less relevant because of the large number of at-home tests not included in the data.

In any case, to match the MDH’s new schedule — and the schedule for our Wisconsin counties — we’ll be publishing local COVID updates to WinonaPost.com every Friday afternoon. Check our website for the latest data available, and we’ll share those updates in the B section of our print edition going forward.

We’re also going to evaluate our own approach to COVID reporting going forward. If you appreciate our local COVID update articles and charts and want to see them continue, or if you have suggestions or other feedback, send us an email at winpost@winonapost.com to let us know. Thanks for reading!