Following frequent calls from legislators, community leaders, and health and data scientists, the state of Hawaii announced late Friday that it had unveiled a new COVID-19 dashboard for anyone interested in tracking local data associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

While the announcement was titled, “New State COVID-19 Online Dashboard Now Available for Public,” the website showed only a mock-up of what the dashboard would look like. Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center lead public information officer Dan Dennison told HawaiiTech.com that the site would be “interactive next week.”

“This is a tremendous step forward in providing vital information in an easy-to-read and understand format,” said Gov. David Ige. “It immediately improves our ability to provide key metrics about how Hawai‘i is performing in our fight against COVID-19 and offers data to aid in decision-making.”

In addition to turmoil among the leadership of the state Department of Health, the agency has been criticized for “not doing a good job” of reporting COVID-19 data, and experts said an update to the existing dashboard two weeks ago “misses the point.” This after legislators said the “DOH must provide sufficient data.”

A recent study found that Hawaii was only publishing about 13 percent of the information researchers thought the state should be publishing.

According to the state announcement, the dashboard will show metrics like:

  • ICU bed and ventilator use by COVID patients, total number and percent of capacity
  • Occupancy and capacity of isolation and quarantine facilities (for those who cannot isolate or quarantine at home)
  • Contact tracing capacity and currently active/trained tracers, by county
  • Testing capacity and turn-around time
  • PPE supplies and distribution
  • Modes of transmission with number of cases and clusters for each
  • Mask-wearing behavior for Honolulu, all islands in the future

The mock-up, described as a prototype, shows additional dashboard modules like:

The state says data for the dashboard is being pulled from multiple sources and will be updated daily or weekly, depending on the sources from which the information is derived. The dashboard will continue to be a collaborative process involving DOH and key partners sharing timely and accurate information with the public.

“There are many places where the public and policy-makers can obtain different pieces of the data,” said Kauai District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman. “This is a central, go-to source for information from multiple sources.”

Berreman said the dashboard provides the ability to monitor COVID-19 indicators across the full spectrum of disease control actions: prevention, detection, containment, and treatment, rather than focusing narrowly on just one.

The dashboard seeks to inform the community and policy makers on four key action areas essential to stopping the pandemic:

  • Prevention: depicts the impact that individual and community behaviors such as mask wearing and physical distancing on keeping the virus from spreading. Prevention is essential in fighting the pandemic but often the most difficult to track because they largely relate to personal behavior and choices.
  • Detection: depicts how much disease is present in Hawai‘i, the types of activities or venues that are resulting in disease transmission, and whether it is increasing or decreasing and how rapidly. This information allows policy makers to tailor their actions and the public to engage in safe practices.
  • Containment: pulls together various parts of a complicated system to help people understand the status of contact tracing, lab testing results, quarantines, and other disease-limiting measures. These measures, taken together, are an important part of controlling the pandemic.
  • Treatment and health care: shows data on hospital & ICU beds, ventilator use and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). From this information the public and policy makers can understand how burdened the health care system is, and how prepared it is to manage an influx of COVID-19 patients.

Edward Mersereau, deputy director of the Dept. of Health’s Behavioral Health Administration, provided more detail on the four action areas.

“While we know there is currently no cure or vaccine to control spread, every success we experience in prevention, detection, containment and treatment means less burden on public health and the health care system,” he said. “Tracking how measures in the four areas are having the impact we are seeking helps to guide where our efforts are effective and where they are not.

“People will be able to see whether or not policies and strategies are having the intended impact and will be more empowered to make informed decisions for their personal wellbeing in this pandemic,” he added.

“This dashboard is an all hands-on deck effort that aims to sync up multiple data sources into a single location,” said Dr. Victoria Fan of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work. “Our aspiration is to have data that are accurate, timely, and granular to help make individual and public decisions through a collaborative partnership with data providers.”

“This dashboard is a multi-faceted depiction of all the moving parts associated with pandemic management and response in one place,” Gov. Ige said. “My hope is this will provide greater understanding and appreciation of the complexity of dealing with this unprecedented public health crisis and help get Hawai‘i back on the road to health and economic recovery as soon as possible.”

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