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COVID-19

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

Erika Beras Jul 21, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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:
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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

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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