Never before has a nation been this unprepared. Ideally, the Federal Government dictates a response and mandates timely, comparable and relevant data to inform the nation. That has not happened with the COVID19 pandemic.
For COVID19, volunteers and universities have been left scrambling to fill the void left by Washington DC in these uncertain times. This in turn, leads to multiple definitions of how states report information and what they choose to include in their numbers.
Some states (e.g. Florida) just want to look good, regardless of whether such an outcome represents the truth or not. Others (e.g California) see data collection as a duty to inform their future actions. Still others (e.g. New York), perhaps not erroneously, prefer to count everyone and everything that has been touched by the coronavirus. For instance, unknown causes of deaths likely to have been caused by COVID19 either directly or indirectly.
What about Hawaii? How are we doing?
From outward appearances, I have no reason to believe we are deliberately deceiving ourselves. Little by little, we are learning as we go. Still, we’re clumsy. Our counts lag; we don’t have a full perspective of where we are at present, let alone a vision of where we might be in a month’s time. Our counts occasionally differ from period to period; sometimes they do not sum up to the total reported or cumulative numbers inexplicably — as in the case of the zip code map — decrease.
My only concern with our current level of analysis is that we are by and large better off than almost anywhere else in the world. This in turn, makes us a bigger target for future infections as others eye a safe haven to weather out the storm. Currently, among US states, we have the lowest per capita death rate. (I do not count test cases, as these are somewhat arbitrary and largely a function of how many have been tested) Again, I think this is probably true in actual fact rather than just as a measure of reporting. If anything, the second lowest per capita death rate is understated; South Dakota is home to a major outbreak at Smithfield Foods, one of the largest pork processors in the country.
Notably, I continue to look toward anecdotal information suggesting our real numbers deviate from reality. So far I have not heard information to the contrary to suggest we are running out of PPE or that our doctors and medical personnel are being silenced over concerns. If anything, what I have seen and heard is a continuous theme of conservative behavior and extra precautions — just in case.
As a matter of life and death, I’ve never hoped to be more right about this. To the Hawaii Department of Health, whose actions I occasionally question, continue to persevere and remember that COVID19 doesn’t do political spin. I support your efforts and your drive toward continual reporting improvement.