State health officials plan to stop updating an interactive COVID-19 data dashboard five days a week and instead publish information on a weekly basis, a move the Department of Public Health says better reflects “the evolving COVID-19 response” in Massachusetts.
In a Friday afternoon announcement, the state said data will be uploaded to the COVID-19 Interactive Data Dashboard once per week on Thursdays instead of the Monday through Friday schedule DPH has kept to over the past year. The data changes — scheduled to take effect on July 11 — come as the official state tally of case counts is on a downward trend from a recent spike in mid-May.
Tufts University School of Medicine Interim Dean Dr. Helen Boucher said monitoring trends over time “is actually the most useful way to apply the COVID-19 data” even as people have become accustomed to checking for case numbers every day.
“Given that Massachusetts has one of the best vaccination and booster percentages in the nation, these changes make sense at this stage in our COVID-19 response,” said Boucher, who also serves as a member of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Medical Advisory Board.
Officials plan to remove higher education COVID-19 data from the dashboard “due to decrease in surveillance testing being conducted in those settings” and will no longer include detailed contact tracing and cluster data. DPH said the dashboard will feature “updated population denominators” to reflect recent U.S. Census numbers going forward.
“The latest reporting updates reflect the evolution of the pandemic given the wide availability of multiple mitigation tools, including vaccination, antivirals, and monoclonal antibody therapies, as well as a highly vaccinated population in Massachusetts,” the department said in a statement.
Raw data for contact tracing, clusters, and higher education, including historic data, “remains available,” DPH said, while elder care facility COVID-19 data will continue to be uploaded Monday through Friday.
A weekly vaccination report will now be published on Wednesdays instead of Thursdays, DPH said, and a daily update on the number of vaccine doses administered in Massachusetts will be consolidated into the weekly report.
“DPH will continue to closely monitor COVID-19 in Massachusetts and maintains the ability to increase the type and frequency of data publication in the future if there is a need,” the department said.
Just over a year ago, the state stopped updating its interactive daily dashboard and vaccination totals seven days a week and instead moved to a Monday through Friday schedule. At the time, the department said the transition reflected the “improving trends in COVID-19 activity in the commonwealth.”
Daily COVID-19 case totals became a regular tool for health professionals, the media, and residents to track the state of the virus in Massachusetts and were a source of either relief or frustration depending on the ebb and flow of cases over the past three years.
The state reported 1,699 new, confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, 18 deaths, and a 7.29% seven-day average percent positivity. Just over 520 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 45 patients were in intensive care units, and 13 were intubated.
County vaccine data will change slightly as health officials plan to report the number of people who are fully vaccinated and those with at least one booster dose instead of people with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and those with at least one booster dose.
“As the pandemic has continued to evolve, so too have our data needs,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “The changes taking effect next week are part of our ongoing efforts to adapt to the pandemic and focus on the metrics most useful at a given time. The updated reporting reflects the current status of COVID-19 and its impact.”