The Valdosta Daily Times on the importance of public health data
Transparency is important in all sectors of government but nowhere more crucial than in the public health sector.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated just how important reliable, easily accessible information is to all of us.
The public has both a right and a need to know things such as infection rates, death rates, hospitalization numbers and overall impact of the pandemic globally, nationally, statewide and — most important — locally.
Only with timely, reliable information are we able to make the best decisions about our health and wellbeing.
In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, public health officials struggled with how much information to release and how quickly to release it. As time has gone on, the process for disclosing data has improved.
Locally, the South Heath District and South Georgia Medical Center have disclosed important COVID-19 data, including deaths, hospitalizations and infection rates, almost daily.
The newspaper has shared all of that information with the public in real time on the newspaper website as breaking news, on social media and in print editions.
Our analytics indicate those daily reports continue to be among the most read news reports on our digital platforms, highlighting the high level of public interest in public health data on the pandemic.
So, the timely release of this information by our hospital and health department is good news.
The bad news is that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, open records requests, especially at the state level, have been backlogged, delayed by weeks and months.
At first, when government offices shut down and staff had to learn how to work remotely, the delays in satisfying records requests were understandable and reasonable.
Now, however, it is time to stop using the public health crisis as a ruse to not disclose vital information to the press and the public.
We took a look at nursing home inspections and the challenges that have been faced at many facilities across the nation.
Families have every right to be able to access inspection reports and data around all incidents occurring at a nursing home.
And, that kind of information is of little value if it is not released in a timely manner.
COVID-19 has impacted us all in many ways, but it must not be used as a ruse to permanently erode the public’s right to know.
The Rome News-Tribune on a a busy week
While the potential for the sale of a community staple — Redmond Regional Medical Center — was one of our biggest topics this week, there are several other items we’d like to address.
But let’s start with the hospital deal.
Floyd County has had two very profitable hospitals for as long as many of us can remember. They’ve been the heart and lifeblood of our community as other industries have come and gone. While they’re likely to be here for a long time still, this year will be a milestone.
The now iconic Floyd Medical Center green will soon become the teal of AtriumHealth at Floyd. It now appears there’s a potential that Redmond’s stylistic medical logo could be replaced with the AdventHealth blue and green.
There are so many implications with either of those topics that it’s hard to decide where to start.
It’s hard to say how the locally-owned and operated Harbin Clinic will weather the possibility of this storm. In the past few years it appeared Harbin was aligning with Redmond and its parent company HCA, but there’s now the potential that the company that contributes so much to this community could be caught between two massive nonprofit medical conglomerates.
Local school systems could take a pretty heavy financial hit if Redmond’s property comes off the tax rolls.
The Floyd County school system is already struggling with the aftermath of Plant Hammond’s closure. The seemingly more fiscally stable Rome City Schools will take a sizable hit from the Redmond deal.
Transitioning into school policies, we feel that Superintendent Glenn White jumped the gun by removing the county school system’s mask requirement.
We know that everyone is tired of the pandemic; we’re tired of it, too. It’s true that the number of new infections here, and statewide, is nearly at an all-time low. It’s amazing to be able to say that, but we’ve had lulls before that turned into incredible spikes.
The difference is that the vaccine is here and the supply is plentiful. But people are dipping into their social media misinformation stations yet again and coming up with ways to claim the vaccines are unsafe, etc. We know because we read our social media comments section.
Look, there are four weeks of school left this year. Compared with the last school year, this one has been an amazing improvement. Hopefully, next year will continue to be better and we’ll be in a place where this pandemic isn’t an issue any more.
Throwing caution to the wind a few weeks before school is over seems shortsighted.
Congratulations to the city, county and TRED for ponying up to get funding for what is going to be a pretty popular trail connection back in the works.
That connection between the Mount Berry Trail and the paved trail on the west side of the Oostanaula River will complete the Redmond Trail Phase One project. All the trails have continued to increase in popularity and this connection, we think, will make them even more so.
Top that off with the potential of a loop connecting the other side of the Rome Braves stadium with the unfinished portion of the Mount Berry Trail — you’ve got a winner. Rome will then have over 14 miles of paved trails in the city without a real road crossing.
Hopefully, if any deal concerning Redmond comes to pass it won’t hamstring Redmond Trail Phase Two, which goes through Summerville Park and bisects the hospital property.