Every day, the Mohave County Department of Public Health spends a large portion of time putting together reports that update county officials and the public on the local coronavirus situation.
Director Denise Burley wants to streamline that process so the department can instead focus their time on case investigations and avoid cleaning up any mistakes from previous updates.
Currently, three coronavirus reports are produced and distributed by the county each day. Two reports, a morning virus update and a look at current hospital capacity, go directly to the Board of Supervisors, as they contain information that can’t be publicly released yet, Burley explained.
A third report goes out to the public at the end of each day, giving an update of the number of new cases and deaths, including where the cases were reported and general age ranges of the infected individuals.
“We’d like to streamline that process,” Burley said during a special Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday, noting the “significant time” that staff is spending on the creation of each report.
She proposed a new way of reporting the county’s data — one daily report, formatted as a fact sheet, that would include visual data representation in addition to written updates. The report for each day’s virus data would be published the following morning, with the goal of minimizing mistakes and focusing on the report’s accuracy rather than timeliness.
“I look at timeliness and accuracy, and I’m heavily weighted, I suppose, towards accuracy,” Burley said.
But Mohave County’s media spokesman Roger Galloway raised his concerns about the delay in reporting new information.
“I’m personally adamantly opposed to the portion about the press release being released the next morning,” Galloway said. “To be truthful, what we’re doing is, after a work day, instead of sending out a press release to the media, to the public, to let them know where we are at that point, we’re waiting 17 hours later to say, ‘Okay, this is what happened yesterday,’ and then they’re not going to hear anything more until the next day. That’s completely the opposite of what we should be doing for the media and the public.”
He pointed out that the coronavirus numbers will be in constant need of updating anyways, “evolving in a situation where they change from hour to hour.” So while the numbers released for the previous day might be more accurate than they would have been the night before, there will likely already be more changes and new cases by the time the morning report is released.
“I can’t say how strongly, as a media guy, as a communications person, how wrong I believe this is,” Galloway said. “There are people out there that don’t want to ever see the figures. There are people out there who want to know where we are right now, and it works very well at the end of the work day for the people we’re sending it to and for our people who have been working on it all day.”
The Board of Supervisors will address the proposal next Thursday, by which time Burley said an example report can be produced and shared with supervisors before a decision is made.