VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — The Mayor of Vermillion is asking the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) to provide a more frequent release of COVID-19 data. The request comes five days after the state’s most recent update, which showed a 68 percent increase in the number of cases reported each day compared to the previous week.
“I felt like what we were getting last year at this time was really helpful,” Mayor Kelsey Collier-Wise said.
“When our cases were going down and we felt like, you know, vaccinated people couldn’t spread it,” she continues, “I was comfortable with the understanding that we might not get quite as much information. Knowing that that’s no longer the case — the more information that we can get, especially when it’s already being collected, gives us the opportunity to make better, more informed decisions.”
Collier-Wise says one of the issues currently is the discrepancy between the DOH data and the CDC data.
“The disparity between the CDC numbers and the DOH numbers I think is causing a lot of confusion,” Collier-Wise said.
Mayor Collier-Wise says she assumes the CDC and DOH are drawing numbers from the same data, but that the timelines are different.
“So for example, the spread that is showing for Clay County — the CDC website says that it’s substantial,” she said, “but the DOH has maintained that we have, you know, low spread.”
Collier-Wise also cites differences in definitions as a possible reason for the discrepancy.
A check of the CDC COVID Data Tracker and DOH COVID Dashboard confirmed this, with the DOH depicting Clay County as having minimal spread while the CDC placed it in the substantial category. Similar discrepancies can be found in other counties such as Buffalo County, where the DOH reports no community spread, but which the CDC has spread listed as high.
Collier-Wise believes the limited data is a negative for the community.
“We’re about to have a really big transition in our population. We’re going to almost double our population over the next couple weeks, and businesses and schools and city offices all want to be prepared,” she said. “Often times they’re going to come to their elected officials and say, ‘Well, why are these numbers different?’ And I have to say, ‘I don’t know, except that I do know that one of these numbers is being reported out every day and one isn’t.'”
“If it’s a matter of feeling overwhelmed or understaffed as far as updating the website — I completely understand that,” Collier-Wise said.
She says one potential solution could even be for the DOH to endorse the information from the CDC.
“Say that the CDC has a dashboard that updates daily, look at that,” Collier-Wise said.
She says hearing validation of the CDC status from state officials is important.
“I have actually seen discussions happen where people are kind of debating why the numbers are different, and they say well maybe the CDC is extrapolating, or maybe they’re using trends and predictive numbers versus the actual numbers,” she said. “If you leave it open to interpretation, people will fill in the information that they don’t have.”
Collier-Wise says she and those around the community appreciate the work the DOH has done on testing and vaccination, and she hopes they are recognizing the changes happening with the virus in the state.
“Again, just for our ability to make the best public health decisions,” she said. “We just need a little bit more frequent information.”
KELOLAND News reached out to the DOH to ask questions about any potential adjustments in data reporting, and received the following response: “We are always exploring further ways to provide the public with the relevant public health data. We are closely monitoring case counts across our state and region, as well as tracking national developments, and continuously analyze our reporting frequency.”