Data reporting woes nix coronavirus report

Experimental drug at BHS

May 21, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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Only a day removed from its change to a new data collection system, the state Department of Health faced complications with its reporting system and missed its daily update of new COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Beginning Tuesday, the state Department of Health officially changed from using the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System to the Electronic Death Registration System.

Butler County Coroner William Young III on Tuesday disputed the death toll that rose from six to 12 with the system change.

In a call with media Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf was asked about discrepancies in other counties with the nursing home data, which was released for the first time Tuesday, too.

Wolf said he was not aware of any discrepancies.

“I can't answer that,” he said. “This is the first time someone has mentioned that it's not accurate.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the state Department of Health has published updated data including cases and deaths. The information was updated daily at noon. As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the information still reflected Tuesday's figures.

In addition to the data reporting, the state also held a video conference briefing at least every weekday, ranging between noon and 3 p.m.

In a statement sent at 4:07 p.m., the department announced it was canceling its media briefing for Wednesday and would resume its regular briefings Thursday.

“The Department of Health is postponing today's media briefing due to an issue with the statewide surveillance data system,” the statement said. “The technical issues are in the process of being resolved and once the data becomes available, the department will issue a news release.”

While the state's data appeared to be in flux, Butler Health System on Wednesday received its first supply of remdesivir, a drug used to treat the most serious cases of COVID-19.

The shipment was sent from the federal government to the state Department of Health on Tuesday, which immediately began distributing about 1,200 doses of the experimental drug to hospitals across the state. Butler Health System was one of 51 hospitals to receive the drug.

“BHS received 18 vials of remdesivir, a drug available in very limited quantities, appropriate for a select group of COVID-19 positive patients,” said BHS spokeswoman Jana Panther. “BHS has enough of the drug on hand for one to three patients.”

According to a fact sheet published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization of the drug for “use of the unapproved product remdesivir for treatment of suspected or laboratory confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in adults and children hospitalized with severe disease.”

In a news conference earlier this week, state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the drug should be reserved in only the most serious COVID-19 cases, where it has shown some viability. She said the drug needs multiple uses as part of the treatment.

Panther said the BHS also offers its thanks to the Butler Eagle for its donation of $15,985 for COVID-19 supplies.

“The Eagle's support of BHS, and communication to the community, has been tremendous, throughout the pandemic,” Panther said. “We thank them.”

Covid-19 Regional Data

The following numbers on the coronavirus pandemic were compiled from the regular news releases from Butler Health System. The state Department of Health figures were not released Wednesday.

Wednesday’s COVID-19 statistics:

Butler Memorial Hospital

Inpatients: 5

Suspected: 3

Confirmed: 2

ICU: 1

Total tests: 4,179

Outdoor tests: 2,445

Positive tests: 233

Clarion Hospital

Inpatients: 2

Suspected: 0

Confirmed: 2

ICU: 0

Total tests: 852

Outdoor tests: 635

Positive tests: 30

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Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger graduated with a degree in journalism in 2015 from Pitt-Johnstown. A business reporter, he also covers Slippery Rock borough, township and school district.