Local health agencies are seeing more delays when it comes to being notified of new cases in their jurisdictions. That delay is down to a change in how the state is handling the data, according to Scott Clardy, assistant director of the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department.
While the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had been directly alerting health departments of new cases via text and email, now public health officials have to check a database. Clardy says the change in approach came last week.
"What that has done is it has basically resulted in adding another day to us being notified of new cases," Clardy said. "We were trying to get them the same day of the case or the next day; now it's more like we're about two days before we get notified of all the cases."
Clardy said updates to the database come twice a day. Michelle Walker, the Carter County health department administrator, says that means she and her staff are constantly checking in on the database to look for changes, where before they'd just be told directly when they had a new case to investigate.
"On days we are closed we are checking it once usually in afternoon because it seems that is when all the cases come in," Walker explained.
The state's shift to the new database has coincided with fewer reported cases, which has also raised concerns for Clardy. "Other local health agencies around us have noticed the same thing," Clardy said. "I think we just feel less confident that we were getting all the cases we were before."
The Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department reported 100 new cases two days in a row this week, bringing the county's five-day average down slightly to 137, as of November 24. That number is still nearly three times as high as it was a month ago, when the five-day average was at 52.
The state Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for comment by press time.