BOSTON — The state-reported COVID-19 data better reflect the realities of the pandemic now that the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized is broken down between people hospitalized to be treated for COVID-19 and people who have COVID-19 but are hospitalized for another reason, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Public Health began collecting and last week began reporting data differentiating between patients who wind up in the hospital for serious cases of COVID-19 and those who test positive for the virus while seeking treatment for another issue. Baker said the more detailed data matched what he had been hearing from the health care sector.
"It's important that the data we make available to each other and to our colleagues in the health care community accurately reflect what's going on," the governor said after meeting with House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka on Monday afternoon. "And what I would say that data showed is that we have far more people in the hospital who are there because they are sick for some other reason, which is a message we've heard loud and clear from our colleagues in the health care community for a while now."
In Monday's update to its "Incidental COVID-19 report," the DPH said the nearly 3,000 hospitalized people with COVID-19 were split almost evenly between those hospitalized for COVID-19 and those hospitalized with COVID-19.
Of the 2,984 statewide patients, 1,487 (49.8%) were reported as being hospitalized due to their COVID-19 and 1,497 (50.2%) were reported as having tested positive despite being hospitalized for something else.
Mariano was among the first to cheer the reporting change when the DPH announced it earlier this month. He said he began talking with state Rep. Jon Santiago, D-Boston, over the holiday break about what the rep was seeing during his shifts as an emergency room doctor at Boston Medical Center. After a trip to see what the situation at BMC was like for himself, Mariano also stopped in on four other hospitals.
"We started in Weymouth because it's in my district but went all the way down to the Cape and we saw basically the same thing," Mariano said. "There was a change in who was coming into the emergency room and who was staying in the hospital. They were all listed as COVID-related, but they were there for other things.
"The primary reason was there for other things but they got caught in the stats that we were counting, so we weren't really finding out how many people were there because COVID ... and that was the nuance that I think that I was referring to, that we've got to start talking about why these numbers are so high."
This article originally appeared on The Milford Daily News: Massachusetts health officials change how they count COVID-19 patients