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ODH must take steps to ensure data is up to date

We have been critical at times of online efforts in Ohio to keep the public informed about the situation regarding COVID-19. Sometimes, statistics posted on the state websites lag significantly behind what actually has happened, we pointed out.

About a week ago, Ohio officials admitted they were overwhelmed. As we noted on Wednesday, they were forced to post a red-letter warning that data being displayed was incomplete. Thousands of epidemic-related reports were still being processed.

Those in charge of updating the state’s COVID-19 website need help. In Ohio, they are drowning in a sea of reports that need to be evaluated.

That will not do.

We mean that not as criticism of the men and women here who are working hard to keep up with the pandemic numbers. Instead, it is recognition that through no fault of their own, they are in over their heads.

They need help.

Public health agencies throughout the nation are in similar straits. They were structured and staffed to deal with well-baby clinics, vaccinations for childhood diseases, restaurant inspections and other normal-times tasks. Their warnings that the nation was not prepared for a full-scale epidemic were ignored for years.

Now the enemy is not just at the gates; it has breached them. Now Ohioans are not being given the information we need regarding the coronavirus epidemic in as timely a fashion as we should have it.

Clearly, those who are collecting, processing and posting important statistics online need assistance. That may require paying some temporary employees to provide help. It may mean reaching into agencies not normally involved in public health for expertise in dealing with data.

It will require treating the information gap as the serious challenge it is. Gov. Mike DeWine should issue whatever orders are needed to bring the process of keeping the public informed at the same speed to which COVID-19 has accelerated.

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