New U of M website offers state-by-state comparison of COVID-19 hospitalizations

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Researchers at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management launched a new website Tuesday to help the country's public health managers better compare state-by-state data related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite daily updates on the death toll from COVID-19, researchers say a nationwide clearinghouse for even more critical data such as hospitalization rates and ICU capacity had not existed until now. 

"We looked around and, unfortunately, we could not find a website that was credibly reporting hospitalization data from multiple states," said Associate Professor Pinar Karaca-Mandic, co-leader of the U of M's COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project.

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Project co-leader and KSTP medical expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou said the effort to create the new website began just two weeks ago and involved contacting departments of health from all 50 states.

"When this started, only 23 states were reporting anything," Georgiou said. "We kept asking and we kept telling them how this would help them and we committed to giving them the data back. As of now, we're at 37 states."

Researchers on the project note that some of the hardest-hit states, including New York and New Jersey, are not yet providing hospitalization data related to COVID-19.

"In other states, they said 'We're reporting it just to the governor.' In other states, they said 'We're not releasing it.' And in others, they just said 'We don't have the resources to collect this data,'" Georgiou said.

During his daily briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz welcomed the U of M's effort to gather the nationwide data and to present it in a useful format.

"What we're interested in is predicting the hotspots," Walz said. "Data can inform you to the questions you should be asking… and that kind of holistic picture is exactly what we should be doing."

Researchers on the project also suggest their new website can help states evaluate best practices among states with lower rates of hospitalization and potentially identify neighboring states with which they can share resources.

"We have 50 separate public health systems across the United States and there is no way for them, through data, to really work together, so hopefully this is the beginning of that effort," Georgiou said.