Local epidemiologists and researchers say the Hawaii Department of Health has continually rebuffed their requests for data throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and that the department's latest decision to scale back the information it has been releasing to the public daily on COVID-19 deaths is just the latest example of the department's lack of openness.
"All I can tell you is how absolutely frustrated we are," said DeWolfe Miller, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at the University of Hawaii.
For instance, researchers were hoping to get data on the number of people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 broken down by vaccination status and age, which could help to better calculate the efficacy of the vaccines on different age groups, said Sumner La Croix, a research fellow at the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and economics professor at UH Manoa. But he said state health officials have declined to provide it.
"What is really clear to me is that DOH doesn't really want any independent investigators actually looking at the data," said La Croix. "They really don't want anyone second guessing their decisions."
Department of Health officials didn't respond to a request for comment about the criticism, which reached a new height this weekend when the department announced that it would no longer be sending out the detailed information it had been providing for months about COVID-related deaths. A department spokesman, in an email to the media on Sunday, cited the "volume of COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 related deaths" as the reason for no longer sending out the information, even though case counts have declined markedly over the past four weeks.
The daily emails included the age range of the person who died, the county where they died, hospitalization status, gender and whether they had underlying conditions.
/misc | Oct 07, 2021
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