NH hospitals adapt to changes in COVID data

for dr Matt Dunn, chief medical officer at Memorial Hospital in North Conway, data is an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19.

Every day he consults global data on new variants and other data models from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. He also examines New Hampshire religiously Online COVID-19 Dashboard.

Having reliable numbers on how COVID-19 is spreading — and how the virus is evolving — helps Dunn and other hospital leaders make decisions about staffing and plan for potential strains on their healthcare system. But navigating this data is becoming increasingly difficult.

New Hampshire health officials recently stopped releasing daily COVID-19 updates, which have been a staple of their pandemic response since the pandemic began. Instead, they issue weekly data briefings and post other updates on their online dashboard.

State officials have said that as more people test at home and don’t report those results to health officials, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rely on and track individual test results. They are also working on one new public wastewater monitoring project, which will show changes in COVID levels in cities and towns across the state, but is not yet online.

The state’s decision to scale back its daily COVID-19 data updates has caused frustration among local healthcare leaders.

“I think it would be very helpful to go back to a daily report,” Androscoggin Valley Hospital president Mike Peterson said on a recent call with other healthcare providers in the north country.

At Memorial Hospital, Dunn increasingly relies on internal data to fill in the gaps left by the state and federal governments.

After more than two years of this pandemic, Dunn said he can use historical data to make predictions about how the hospital must respond to potential surges. For example, if the region’s test positivity rate approaches 20%, he knows that many absenteeism is likely to follow.

Based on the numbers he’s looking at now, including rising test positivity at clinics with his healthcare system, Dunn predicts things will get worse before they get better.

“In the next few weeks we will likely have staffing or resource shortages,” he said. “And we will have challenges, I think, with transfers.”

In Manchester said Dr. Elliot Hospital chief medical officer Kevin Desrosiers said he still uses state test data to predict trends – with the assumption that it will be significant undercounting.

But Desrosiers said it’s been difficult to make accurate predictions during the pandemic, especially since so many factors change between each surge: new variants, vaccines and treatments. This is just the latest challenge.

And while some data is grim, Desrosiers has been buoyed by at least one trend over the past few months.

“Despite the fact that we recorded many [COVID patients]’ he said, ‘our activity in the ICU was minimal.’

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