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Give the public better COVID-19 data

By Staff | Sep 3, 2020

A friend of mine is concerned about COVID-19. She is in her 70s and in the high-risk group with a history of respiratory problems.

Similar to points made by John Bond in this week’s letters, she questioned why the state and the County of Maui don’t provide more details on COVID-19 cases.

The Lahaina News has sent questions in to multiple county press conferences. They are hesitant to provide information on cases by region.

My friend reasoned that kupuna would like to know about hotspots for cases to avoid those areas – or be extra careful.

She asked hypothetically, “Let’s say I hear that Lahaina has zero new cases, and Maalaea has 50; what place do you think I would avoid?”

Why not give state leaders and residents the best information possible?

One organization tracking the pandemic here, the Hawaii Data Collaborative, believes everyone needs access to better COVID-19 information.

“Over the last two weeks, it has become clear that state and county leadership do not have full access to the data and expertise needed to manage the disease. And neither does the public,” wrote Nick Redding in an Aug. 18 blog.

“Government and our health institutions are responsible for managing this crisis, but the responsibility does not sit only with the State. The consequences loom too large for that to be the case. It is incumbent on all of us – as policymakers, business and nonprofit leaders, educators, health professionals, and concerned citizens – to act based on the best information we have available to us,” he continued.

“But we can only play our part if we are all looking at the same numbers to guide our questions and scrutinize prevailing assumptions, engage where we are needed, and hold those responsible to account.

“Enough stories – we need to be looking at the data.”

One state COVID-19 bulletin today (Aug. 26) noted eight new cases on Maui. It also stated, “Clusters on Maui include cases at an assisted living facility and new cases associated with a hospital.”

To me, this is useless.

The state should preserve everyone’s privacy, but we need information we can use.