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If numbers spike, 'they can always go back': Mass. officials switch to less frequent COVID reporting

Jessica Capobianco drops a COVID-19 test swab into a vial after testing a student at the Bromfield School in Harvard, Massachusetts.
Jesse Costa
/
WBUR
Jessica Capobianco drops a COVID-19 test swab into a vial after testing a student at the Bromfield School in Harvard, Massachusetts.

There has been mixed reaction to an announcement by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that it would start reporting COVID-19 data less frequently. It's going from five days a week to weekly.

“The changes taking effect...are part of our ongoing efforts to adapt to the pandemic and focus on the metrics most useful at a given time," state epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown said in a press release. "The updated reporting reflects the current status of COVID-19 and its impact.”

Dr. Philip Landrigan, who directs the Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good at Boston College, said the change to weekly reporting is reasonable — at least in the short term.

"Case counts are down right now," Landrigan said. "There's not a whole lot of transmission during July and August while people are outside. They can always go back to daily reporting in September [and] October if the cases begin to go up again."

Landrigan said he's also reassured that ongoing testing of wastewater in Boston for COVID can serve as an early warning system that cases may be about to increase.

Other public health experts cited by The Boston Globe raised concerns about the move.

Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, an assistant professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine and an infectious disease specialist at Boston Medical Center, said it's not "the right time" for less frequent reports, given the increase of subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

"I would like to still be able to have access to the information on a daily basis until we learn a little bit more about what this subvariant is going to do," Assoumou told the newspaper.

Connecticut's Department of Public Health switched to weekly reporting of COVID-19 data at the end of June.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education, and politics. Working with correspondent Morley Safer, he reported from locations across the United States as well as from India, Costa Rica, Italy, and Iraq.