It was a great relief to learn that Missouri did not, in fact, see a one-day jump of 5,000 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, as the state’s new online pandemic data dashboard briefly reported. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services subsequently admitted that a technical error on its database coughed up the erroneous number.
But this is by no means an all’s-well-that-ends-well situation. The state still had no accurate count of COVID-19 cases and deaths for days afterward, meaning health care professionals, political leaders and the public were all in the dark. Gov. Mike Parson owes the state some answers.
The first weapon against the coronavirus is information: Are the numbers of cases statewide rising or falling, where is it spreading fastest, where is it under control? That data influences the policy decisions state and local leaders make concerning school and business closures, as well as affecting the personal decisions that individuals make as they navigate the pandemic. How people conduct themselves if they live in an area with low infection rates is and should be different than if they’re in an area where it’s spiking.
That’s why the state has paid the New York firm End Point more than $128,000 for the coronavirus data dashboard system, called EpiTrax, which went up late last month. The idea was to make widely available real-time information tracking virus cases statewide, by county, per capita and demographically, along with a ranking of the state’s infection rate as compared to the rest of the country.