(Posted July 3, 2020)
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Madison County Public Health (MCPH) are committed to releasing data to inform the public in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis while also protecting the privacy rights of Ohioans. Providing summary data about infectious diseases is something public health has always done. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for information has increased significantly.
ODH recently has started releasing additional details in areas of the state that are seeing significant increases in the number of cases. This includes geographical location of cases. In coming weeks, ODH may begin to include case zip codes as an additional data point released to the public. While many find this to be informative, MCPH reminds residents that it does not tell a full story on risks.
“Knowing the zip codes of people who have COVID-19 only lets you know where the person is isolated and getting well,” said Madison County Health Commissioner Chris Cook. “Zip codes tell you nothing about where the exposure happened.”
Cook said that knowing where cases live does not change the precautions individuals should take to help reduce the spread of the virus.
“We know the virus is everywhere. Zip codes can produce either a false sense of security or a false sense of panic. We want everyone to protect themselves all the time,” Cook said. “Frankly, zip code data does not help people make better choices. More than anything, it satisfies curiosity.”
MCPH reports the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths of COVID-19 in the county. Positive cases are broken down by those confirmed by laboratory testing and those identified through clinical diagnosis using criteria from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, MCPH reports the date that cases began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, age range of cases, and cases in congregate settings (prisons and long-term care facilities). This information is updated daily at covid.madisonph.org.
Public health works every day to prevent the spread of diseases in the community, Cook said. Registered nurses investigate communicable diseases to protect the health of those who live, work, and visit Madison County. All residents should continue to look out for other community members by social distancing, frequently washing your hands, and wearing facial coverings, Cook said. “We are starting to see that current measures, such as social distancing, quarantine, and isolation implemented in the United States are insufficient by themselves to protect the public,” Cook said. “COVID-19 is a serious disease. Masks are proven to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Until we have an effective vaccine, masks are key to keeping the transmission of COVID-19 low here in Madison County.”
For local data, visit covid.madisonph.org and social media (@madisoncountyPH), call (740) 852-3065 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are concerned about your mental health, call the COVID CareLine at 1-800-720-9616 to talk to with a licensed mental health professional between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.