Forest: For NC to Get Back to Work, We Must Answer These Questions

RALEIGH – Here in the middle of April, in what is projected to be the apex of coronavirus impacts on North Carolina, many are beginning to openly wonder how we reopen North Carolina and get back to work. Some grassroots movements have already kicked off to reopen the state, but lieutenant governor Dan Forest thinks there are some critical questions to address before making that call.

Forest, who cautioned against the deleterious effects of forced business closures, thinks we should be starting the conversation now about how to get back to normal. For that, we need reliable information. Data.

From Forest:

“While elected officials and healthcare leaders across the country discuss a rolling reopening of our economy, North Carolina needs to start the same discussion, but we lack key information. NCDHHS needs to immediately publicize relevant data so that the state can begin planning recovery efforts.
Here are some of the specific questions that need to be answered:
    • The age and risk category of those who are or have been hospitalized with COVID-19
    • The age and risk category of those who have died from complications from COVID-19
    • The number of hospital beds (inpatient and ICU) available by county and hospital
    • The number of active cases that must be reached for our statewide hospital system to be overwhelmed
    • The number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 who have recovered
    • The number of tests completed on individual patients with COVID-19 to determine recovery
    • A definition of what “recovered” means
    • Demographic data on all people tested for COVID-19
    • ZIP codes for all confirmed COVID-19 cases
    • Cumulative number of hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and ventilator usage
These are common sense questions that protect patient privacy while providing the right information for our state leaders to make informed decisions. Further delay in releasing this information leaves the public and policymakers without the critical data necessary to reopen our state, and will prolong the devastation so many North Carolinians are experiencing.”
Those are good questions. In our information technology world, you’d think the answers would be readily available.
‘We wish we had more data,’ or some such iteration of that statement, has become common parlance during the regular briefings from Governor Roy Cooper and his HHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. They lament the lack of consistent and actionable information, yet they take the most drastic actions.
The questions asked by Forest are key to getting a full picture of COVID-19 in North Carolina. It’s data that also cuts against the grain of daily sensationalizing the confirmed case counts. North Carolina’s hospitals are not presently under capacity pressures from COVID-19, and we should make sure everyone is aware of the answers to the questions above so we can get back to our lives.

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