Update Needed

State COVID-19 numbers must be current

People are dying virtually every day at nursing homes in West Virginia. You would not know that to look at the website maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Resources (dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19).

On Friday, a representative of a nursing home in our area told us of an outbreak there. A check of the DHHR website, which lists each long-term care facility in the state, indicated no COVID-19 cases at the home.

A closer look revealed the reason: “Data will be updated every Friday.” Information shown on the website last Friday afternoon was a week old.

Both local and state public health officials throughout West Virginia have been strained terribly — some, nearly to the breaking point — by the epidemic. We recognize that. We commend the many men and women who are doing all in their mental and physical power to save lives.

But maintaining a website does not require public health expertise. It is a simple matter of communication: Local information is fed to health departments in the 55 counties. They forward it to the DHHR.

Which apparently sits on the data, sometimes for days on end, before revealing it to the public.

No wonder so many people are not taking COVID-19 seriously. Why should they, if DHHR officials feel no urgency to give the public accurate, current information on how bad the epidemic has become?

This sounds harsh. It was meant to be so. In our so-called “information age,” data can be an invaluable tool. Relying on inaccurate, outdated information can be a positive danger.

By the time you read this, the DHHR will have updated its nursing home COVID-19 numbers for the week. By Monday, they will be out of date.

That is not acceptable.


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