The importance of numbers during a pandemic |

The importance of numbers during a pandemic

Rachel Mills
Created: July 21, 2021 05:21 PM

(ABC 6 News) - With the pandemic slowing down worldwide, the Centers for Disease Control is not collecting as much data as it once was, and experts think that could be a problem.

Most states, including Minnesota and Iowa, have dashboards online where we can find all kinds of information and numbers related to Covid - whether it's vaccinations or cases.

Recently, both Minnesota and Iowa stopped updating those dashboards every day, but that doesn't mean they've stopped collecting the data. 

"We haven't lost any information, it's just we're being more thoughtful about how we invest our resources and how often we put it out to the public," MDH's director of infectious disease, Kris Ehresmann, said. 

Ehresmann said the state is still watching the numbers because, without them, we're essentially blind. 

"The reason we collect data is to take action. And data is really important for us to take thoughtful action, whether it's a response or vaccination," Ehresmann said.  

"If we weren't tracking that information, we wouldn't be able to see those changes in cases or even be able to dig in and really understand that variant aspect," Olmsted County Public Health's epidemiology surveillance program manager, Meaghan Sherden, said. 

What we learn now from the data can be useful in fighting or preventing future public health crises. For example, a lot of our Covid response was learned during the 1918 flu pandemic. 

"That's where the whole thing of 'flattening the curve' came from - that and historical information we have," Sherden said.  

Both Ehresman and Sherden said collecting data also helps us find our shortcomings.

"Looking at zipcodes which have what would be considered a 'high social vulnerability index" - groups that may be at greater risks. So are they getting sick more frequently? Are they having equal access to vaccine?" Ehresmann said. 

"It's really important for us to document who was most affected in our community because that can also help us have some conversations after the pandemic of steps we need to do to make sure we don't see those disparities," Sherden said. 

The state has slowed its case reporting so it can put people to work on more important tasks like HIV outbreaks. Both Minnesota and Olmsted County have no plans to stop collecting data on Covid in the future.

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