The Arizona Department Health Services’ announcement that it is changing its COVID-19 reporting strategy beginning March 1st is generating both praise and accusations of “playing politics.”
The department recently announced that it will be reporting some of its COVID-19 numbers on a weekly basis, instead of a daily basis. In his announcement of the changes, newly appointed director of Arizona Department of Health Services, Don Herrington, admitted that “…at least 34 states don’t do the daily COVID-19 data reporting,” like Arizona does.
“… According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials,” wrote Herrington, “this new weekly cadence will align with other disease reporting in Arizona. Weekly updates also will reduce understandable confusion that happens when variability in data inputs and/or processing result in an unusually high or low number of cases, deaths, or other information added to the dashboard on a given day.”
Daily statistics that Arizona health officials have bombarded residents with, are virtually meaningless when it comes to setting public health policy because the care and treatment can’t adapt each and every day, but the fear created by a non-stop drumbeat of such data has helped to justify the Governor’s emergency orders that are still in place today, nearly two years after the pandemic began. And critics say the reason Arizona is one of the only red states being criticized for its reporting methods is because Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic more like New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy than Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“I don’t know if Ducey believes any of this stuff, if he’s afraid of what the media will say about him if he backs off of the heavy-handed stuff, or if he’s just playing along because Arizona is raking in big bucks from the federal government, but he doesn’t seem to be following the science and he sure doesn’t seem to be following the polls.” said one politico who asked not to be named because he had to interact with the Governor’s staff on issues.
What data is reported and when it gets reported has become a larger issue across the nation given the relationship COVID-19 coverage and policy has with national and state politics. Democrats made COVID-19 a political issue to damage then President Trump, with then candidate Joe Biden saying in the October 22nd Presidential Debate “220,000 Americans dead… anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America.” His line of attack worked, except as President, Biden has now been in charge while more than 400,000 Americans have reportedly died from Covid-19.
Combine Biden’s bad COVID-19 numbers with the public’s increasingly strong opposition to mandates and lockdowns, and the shift in how the government wants to be seen as dealing with the virus makes perfect political sense.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announced it is planning to update guidance in response to both growing criticism of the Biden administration and its sagging poll numbers.
While many in the science community have long-questioned the metrics promoted by the CDC, such as positive tests to justify draconian mitigation methods, only now will it rely on hospitalizations to measure the virality of COVID-19. Focusing on those in danger from the virus, instead of everyone who reports having it, will dramatically lower the numbers being reported. Supporters of the move believe it will allow policy and treatment to follow those in actual need, while cynics point out that it will also allow for the same government officials who pushed so hard for mandates to justify lifting them.
The changes by the CDC also follow an article in the San Francisco Gate, which published a slide deck they obtained showing that the “Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is concerned that Republican attacks on the Democrats’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have “alarming credibility.”
Will Humble, formerly of the Arizona Department of Health Services, now quasi-lobbyist at the Arizona Public Health Association, accused Ducey changing policies for “PR purposes” in a tweet on Sunday.
✅ Moving to weekly new case reporting makes some sense.
✅ Reporting hospitalization metrics weekly makes some sense.
❌ Posting hospitalization data after it’s already 2-weeks old makes NO sense.
❌ Reporting #COVID deaths monthly is ridiculous & likely done for PR purposes.