Mixed Messaging Causing Citizen COVID News Tuneout (OP-ED)
It's been a growing issue, almost since the start of the COVID pandemic.
It would be unwise to disregard the threat to elderly, those with compromised health, even newborn babies or expectant mothers when it comes to COVID. However, for the rest of us, we're being bombarded with mixed messaging.
People are, by the thousands, doing their own research, own homework, and are beginning to question what's already confusing information.
Gov. Inslee published this on his Facebook page right around the time he extended the current 'lockdown' through January 4. He claims occupancy rates at 80%, and claims healthcare systems will be or are getting overwhelmed.
However, December 9th a local TV story quoted a local hospital official as saying most of their COVID cases are not in ICU beds. Other area hospitals report they're equipped and more than prepared for what happens caseload wise.
Then December 11, WSDOH officials, including Chief Health Officer Kathy Lofy said "hospitals are full and the healthcare workers are tired." She was discussing COVID, clearly implying the situation is due to the virus.
However, As of December 10, 2020, the BFHD reports the following data. Of the 416 people in beds between Lourdes, Trios, Kadlec and Prosser Memorial, 73 have COVID or COVID-like symptoms. That's 17.5 percent of bed patients. That's 3-5 percentage points lower than numbers we saw 4-5 months ago.
However, niether the BFHD or health facilities list how many of those patients are actually in Intensive Care Unit beds (ICU). We do know Kadlec has 20 ICU beds, TRIOS 14, Lourdes 6 and Prosser Memorial none. But PM does have two intabators.
That's 40 ICU unit beds. We are not told how many of the 73 are there. What is also not reported is the number of ICU patients there for other illnesses. And, it is also not being taken into consideration that this time of year, surgeons and hospitals see increases in elective or corrective operations. People often choose to have them before the year ends and their benefits change, or their HSA's run out (Health Savings Accounts). Some HSA's do not allow carryover of funds to the next year.
It seems all we hear of is hospitalizations rising, dangers of overwhelmed facilities and run down worn out staff; without any perspective.
Meanwhile the death rates from all confirmed COVID cases in Benton and Franklin County (since 'day one') remain at 1.5 percent for Benton, and 1.0 in Franklin (BFHD-12-10-2020).
The way data is reported can lead to confusion. The BFHD has one of the more comprehensive websites in Eastern Washington, there is a LOT of data. However the way it's reported in the Walla Walla District is very different. More sparse. And for smaller counties, it's almost impossible. Try finding COVID stats and data for Adams.
What's reported can differ as well. The Yakima County Health District actually lists how many COVID patients are intabated in area hospitals. As of 12-11, of the 46 people with COVID in Yakima County hospitals, 5 are being intabated (on some sort of respirator). They also list how many of the confirmed cases have Underlying Conditions--which is NOT reported in Benton and Franklin or Walla Walla.
This up and down, back and forth messaging given to the public doesn't always match up to the data and facts; and it seems to swing back and forth between postive, and 'we're all going to die' borderline hysteria.
It's for these reasons there is fast growing citizen COVID news tuneout, mistrust and disbelief; yet officials cannot seem to grasp why.