Two pieces of news last week reflected what I suspect will be the pandemic’s reality for the foreseeable future: It’s not going away but we’re paying less attention.
The not-going-away part shows up in the daily data released by the New Hampshire Hospital Association.
As of Friday, the number of people in the state’s hospitals because of COVID-19 was 132, the highest in three months. That number has risen 40% in May, with no sign of stopping. We’re definitely back in another surge.
Hospitalization counts are the best way to keep track of our pandemic now that unreported at-home testing has made counts of new cases and testing-positivity rates almost meaningless.
A separate tally is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services which as of March counts only people in the hospital getting Remdesivir and/or Dexamethasone for COVID-19. That figure is smaller – 31 as of Friday – but is also rising, by 50% in May alone.
The N.H. Hospitalization Association figure include everybody who entered the hospital with COVID-19 even if they have improved and aren’t getting those specific antivirals. I prefer it partly because it allows comparisons with figures kept throughout the entire pandemic and also because it better reflects the current state of COVID-19. If the virus is disrupting lives by forcing people to stay in the hospital, it’s not terribly significant what medication they’re getting.
Speaking of DHHS, that body made an announcement last week which brings us to the second part of our new reality: Less attention.
Since the spring of 2020, the state’s health agency has issued daily email updates on the pandemic, listing new cases, the current test positivity rate, hospitalizations, accumulated case counts (now almost 320,000) as well as details of deaths and outbreaks in facilities.
Although there have been occasional issues with timeliness and sourcing, that daily release sent to thousands – probably tens of thousands – of people has been an unprecedented effort for New Hampshire in public health outreach.
I say “has been” because the daily releases have just ended and are being replaced with a weekly update, similar to what the state has done for years during influenza season, via PDFs on its website.
The state will continue to update its web-based COVID-19 dashboard every weekday so it’s not like they’re hiding the information. And you can keep up with the Monitor’sCOVID-19 page at https://www.concordmonitor.com/Special-Sections/Covid-19, which includes my updated chart on hospitalizations that uses the NHHA data.
But the end of the DHHS afternoon email blast, which I have used for 22 months to update my own charts, does feel like we are heaving a deep sigh and becoming resigned to living a COVID-affected life.
Looks like I’ll be wearing a mask when indoors in public for a long, long time.
Incidentally, this COVID tracker feature is not returning to any regular status but it will crop up occasionally as news requires. Let’s hope that isn’t very often.