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COVID-19

Hospitals scramble to switch to government’s new COVID reporting system

Erika Beras Jul 21, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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The new COVID-19 tracking site went live this week, but the transition could prove difficult for hospitals. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Hospitals scramble to switch to government’s new COVID reporting system

Erika Beras Jul 21, 2020
The new COVID-19 tracking site went live this week, but the transition could prove difficult for hospitals. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The federal government’s new COVID-19 tracking site went live Monday. It’s under the aegis of the Department of Health and Human Services — and it replaces the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s system. However, the transition to the new data-collection system may create a host of new problems for hospitals.

Fewer than half of the nation’s hospitals reported to the old system. About three-quarters will report to the new one, and they’ll have to enter the data manually.

Katherine Baicker, a health economist at the University of Chicago, said the goal here is commendable, that having harmonized information is crucial both to individual decision making and getting resources in the right place at the right time. 

The problem is, “ideally, you wouldn’t be starting to do it in a pandemic,” she said.

Not only during the pandemic,  but with only days of notice, according to Dave Dillon of the Missouri Hospital Association.

“We have not had the ramp-up period to encourage hospitals to engage in this,” he said.

But hospitals will have to engage if they want resources the government controls, such as the scarce supply of antiviral drugs. Dillon said the changeover has been “more of a sanction than an inducement.”

Hospitals are already stretched thin by the pandemic, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. The confusion over what to report and to whom and how may actually impair federal efforts.

“In many ways it may very well delay the response that they’re having,” he said. “And I think that’s the biggest risk, that it really undermines their ability to move as quickly as they would like.”

Benjamin said understaffed and underfunded hospitals may not have the resources to devote to typing information into this platform — and those are the hospitals that could most use help from the federal government.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

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