State pulls staff off compiling COVID numbers, plans to remove and obscure some info 

By: - March 11, 2022 7:36 pm

A computer-generated image of the coronavirus (Getty Images)

Starting Monday, it will be more difficult to find daily data on the pandemic maintained by the New Mexico Department of Health.

The daily COVID-19 updates will no longer be available broken down by county, officials said.

A staple information source for two years now, the daily county-level updates have long been how the public understood the pandemic. The info was also the basis of public health protections and rules, according to officials, until recently. 

Data will no longer be compiled by Health Department staff or sent out to the press each day.

The information won’t be quite the same either. The state is moving to a new way of reporting the data that mimics the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said at a Friday afternoon news conference.

The process will be automated, Scrase said. The automated daily reports will contain case counts, hospitalizations, how many people are on respirators, deaths and some test results.

DOH will no longer report the test positivity rate at all, he added. To find that rate, Scrase said, someone would need to do the math themselves by taking the number of new cases and dividing by the number of positive tests to get the positivity rate at any given time, he said.

There will be a fresh update every weekday, Monday through Friday, at 2 p.m. barring holidays. The epidemiology report page is here on the DOH website.

County data to come out less often

The state will still be releasing county-level data on a weekly basis, Scrase said, as part of a more detailed weekly report.

“There will be, soon, a county report that translates the CDC data into green, yellow or orange for the counties, per the CDC guidelines,” he said.

Seven-day averages are more accurate than daily counts, he said, and therefore more useful to individuals.

Why is this happening?

It took 80 human hours per day to produce every update and news release, Scrase said.

Instead of manually putting together the reports, he said those Health Department employees will be “going back to their real jobs that they had, managing a lot of other really important parts of what the Department of Health does.”

That includes efforts to combat substance use disorder and track other vaccinations. Those employees also can go back to providing regular health care at department offices and clinics, or making in-person visits to hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities. They’ll also resume getting people off the Developmental Disabilities Waiver waiting list and into services, he said.

“We will have access to more detailed data, but we have a Department of Health to run and a whole bunch of other issues of the health of New Mexicans,” Scrase said. “So we’re going to be moving away from very intensive, manual press releases. We’re excited not only to have more automation in the process but also get back to our other work in the Department of Health.”


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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.