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Donna Barron, RN | Health matters: A look at the data

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Especially as the state begins to open up and in light of the recent outbreak in the northern part of Vermont, people are as eager ever for data about the number of cases and where those who are affected live.

For a few important reasons, these questions are difficult for the health system to answer. First of all, SVMC is not the only location providing tests, and we don't get notified when someone who lives in the communities we serve tests positive. Plus, apart from patient and staff safety, patient privacy is our utmost concern. We simply do not share information about patients with anyone other than the patient themselves and the clinical professionals who need it for their work.

Fortunately, the Vermont Department of Health and the health departments of our neighboring states are collecting and presenting incredibly specific data every day. This is the same data that our health professionals have been using all along to guide our preparations. And you can access it, too, to learn almost anything you want to know about COVID-19 in our region.

Vermont

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Among the many data points included on Vermont's user-friendly Dashboard of Activity" are new and total cases, hospitalized cases, and the number of people who are hospitalized under investigation. A map indicates the number of cases by town. Additional views show cases and deaths by age, new and cumulative cases and deaths, new and total cases by county, total people tested and the number of people tested per day, cases and deaths by sex and ethnicity, and the number of positive cases per 10,000 residents. In short, it's pretty comprehensive.

New York

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New York's COVID-19 Tracker includes total number of persons tested, total positive tests, percentage of positive results, the number of people tested today, and positive tests today — all by county. They also include gender data of positive cases and include both map and table views. Fatality data is listed by county, age, sex, race/ethnicity, and the other conditions the people who passed away had.

Massachusetts

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The Massachusetts COVID-19 Dashboard includes tons of information, including new and total cases, new and total deaths, new and total tests for both active disease and antibodies. They also present both confirmed and probable cases. Cases and case growth by county; prevalence, deaths, and death rate by county; hospitalizations; Intensive Care Unit and intubation data; daily and cumulative deaths; cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by age; deaths by sex, underlying conditions, and race and ethnicity; and data concerning long-term care facilities are all there.

With all of their data-collection and analysis power, our states' departments of health are our best source of information regarding how COVID-19 is moving in the region and even in our towns and counties.

The good news is that cases and deaths are going down in all of our states. The better we adhere to all of the recommendations — including frequent handwashing, wearing masks when near others, and staying at least 6 feet apart — the greater our likelihood of keeping this positive trend going.

Donna Barron, RN, is the infection preventionist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.


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