HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) launched the new Pandemic Metrics Dashboard, which shows a visualization of COVID-19 community transmission by region.
VDH leaders are hoping that getting a closer look at how they configure coronavirus data and showing where the virus is spreading throughout the commonwealth will help local communities determine how to better mitigate impacts of the pandemic.
In an online presentation Monday, Sept. 28, VDH leaders broke down their new Pandemic Metrics Dashboard.
“VDH has created this newer dashboard to help users like local leaders, local and state public health officials local school officials better understand the extent of community transmission in a given locality or community,” said Laurie Forlano, deputy commissioner for population health.
Forlano said the weekly updated dashboard will pull information to provide a better picture for how the virus is impacting individual communities through several different metrics.
“The transmission extent, as you’ll soon learn, is derived from a set of metrics and indicators that consider burdens and trends associated with different indicators,” she said.
State Epidemiologist Lilian Peake then broke down the use of metrics, indicators and thresholds.
“It’s important to not look at just one metric, and so that is why we are providing a variety of metrics,” she said.
For example, there are eight region metrics that cover current outbreaks, percent of hospital beds occupied and rate of emergency room visits for COVID-like symptoms, to name a few.
If there is a community that has more outbreaks, and fewer beds, that will require a different response than another that has fewer cases and open beds.
“We definitely wanted to take time to work through this very technical dashboard with local health departments and localities to ensure they’re a good tool and that they’re reflecting what’s going on in the community,” said Peake.
A CDC School Metrics tab is also on the dashboard. The tab has metrics from the CDC guiding school decisions such as reopening. The metrics consider the “school’s ability to implement and adhere to key mitigation strategies to decrease transmission of COVID-19.”
The VDH says local government and school officials should work with regional health districts to evaluate data to assess COVID-19 transmission in the area and the ability of the healthcare system to function.
VDH recommends that decisions to alter K-12 school programming, including decisions about in-person instruction, school dismissals or closures be handled at the most local level possible, considering both regional and local epidemiology, community characteristics, and local capacity.
“We hope that these conversations help inform really complex decisions that communities sometimes need to make, for example, school gatherings or large planned events,” said Forlano.
Just as with the other options, you can choose a locality or region and select a date to review the data.
“What this tool tries to do is pull that information together so you have more of a comprehensive picture,” said Peake.
VDH is evaluating the differences between the thresholds and the timeframes used in the VDH Pandemic Metrics Dashboard and the CDC School Metrics Dashboard until Oct. 14. VDH will determine whether it is beneficial to make the VDH Pandemic Metrics Dashboard thresholds consistent with the CDC School Metrics Dashboard case incidence thresholds.
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