New Metrics Aimed at Better Tracking and Management of Pandemic

August 5, 2020, 3:46 PM HST · Updated August 5, 3:46 PM
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Dr. Bruce Anderson, state Health Director. PC: 8.3.20. Office of the Governor / Facebook LIVE.

The Hawai‘i Department of Health is introducing new metrics to assist in decision-making related to COVID-19.  Health officials say the metrics will also better track and manage the disease with a higher degree of accountability.

Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson said the new metrics will augment existing metrics to assess the impact of policy changes and as a way for policymakers and the public to track the course of the outbreak.

On Monday, Dr. Anderson identified four pillars of the state’s public health response: prevention, detection, containment and treatment.

“Based on our investigations, we are seeing that the weak link in the response is in the area of prevention,” said Dr. Anderson. “I think the rise in the number of positive cases can be attributed primarily to the lack of physical distancing and letting down your guard.”

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“The Department of Health has been monitoring most of these measures since the beginning of the pandemic, such as the response time for contact tracing and the percentage of laboratory results that are positive. We have also been closely monitoring hospital capacity, including the number of hospital beds that are filled with COVID patients on any given day,” said Dr. Anderson.

“The combination of all of these tools and evaluating them together will enable us to make better decisions,” said Anderson, noting the enhanced metrics were selected during meetings with district health officers and the counties led by Dr. Janet Berreman, DOH’s Kaua‘i district health officer. “This is not just an academic exercise. The accessibility of this information on a public dashboard allows us to clearly see how well we are dealing with this pandemic, helps others understand why decisions are made, and holds all of us to a higher standard.”

Prevention
The prevention-related metrics will track disease activity in Hawai‘i compared with other states and monitor implementation and compliance with safe practices. This will include metrics relating to face mask compliance. Prevention will also focus on food establishment enforcement metrics, including the number of complaints received on food establishments and the number of red placards that are issued.

Detection
In addition to continuing to track the “epidemiological curve,” or cases per day over time by county and sources of exposure, detection-related metrics will include the number of tests completed and the percent of positive cases of those tested, and sources of exposure.

Containment
Metrics relating to containment will include the percent of positive cases and contacts who are interviewed within 24 hours, the number of individuals and capacity of isolation and quarantine facilities, and laboratory testing turn-around time.

Treatment
In collaboration with the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i and hospital partners, the DOH will continue to monitor hospital capacity, including acute care bed occupancy by day and county for COVID-19 positive cases, intensive care unit bed occupancy and ventilator use by COVID patients.

State health officials say the recent escalating disease rate may potentially require the state to resume tighter controls and restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease. Department officials say this will be especially important as Hawai‘i prepares for the opening of schools and, potentially, the welcoming of trans-Pacific travelers.

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