The Minnesota Department of Health abruptly stopped reporting the current number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or in an intensive care unit in its daily situation update Thursday.
The Department of Health (MDH) publishes a situation update every morning at 11 a.m., but Thursday’s update was lacking one standard piece of information: current hospitalizations and ICU patients.
Instead, the MDH is reporting the number of new hospital and ICU admissions per day, and continues to report cumulative data.
“Just as our understanding of the virus has changed over time, our understanding of what factors we need to measure and report in order to improve our public health response must change. We know this change means some adjustments and apologize for any disruptions, but we think this will be helpful to Minnesotans,” a department spokesperson told Alpha News.
“With the change to hospitalization and ICU data, our intent is to help reduce redundancy and convey a clearer picture of what impact COVID-19 is having in Minnesota by focusing on more specific measures,” he added.
The spokesperson said current hospitalizations are more of an indicator of hospital capacity rather than the severity of the disease. The State Emergency Operations Center and the governor’s dashboard already provide information on hospital capacity, he noted.
“For telling us more about COVID-19 severity, which is what we want to portray on the situation update page, this information on hospitalizations by admission date actually gives a better sense of severity of the disease and is very useful when making decisions in the response — it is already something looked at for the dial-back measures,” said the spokesperson. “We will be adding some additional hospitalization data to our weekly report next week on things like length of stay to fill in more of the picture around hospitalizations.”
Sen. Michelle Benson, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, said the current hospitalization numbers “are valuable because they are not easily manipulated by changes in testing capacity.”
“A potential overload of our health care system was one of the primary concerns from the very beginning of the pandemic, and longitudinal tracking of data helps us understand how COVID impacts our health care system,” she said. “I have not been briefed by MDH on why these important numbers were removed, and I look forward to an explanation or justification of the change.”
The MDH reported four new ICU admissions and 20 new hospitalizations Thursday, bringing cumulative hospitalizations to 7,335 and ICU admissions to 2,049. As of Wednesday — the last available day of current hospitalizations — there were 303 patients hospitalized and 148 in intensive care.