Starting next week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is changing the way it reports coronavirus data.
It will update Michigan cases and COVID-19 deaths weekly, rather than three times a week, starting April 4 on its website, michigan.gov/coronavirus. The case and death reports will include both confirmed and probable coronavirus infections, rather than just confirmed.
The shift comes at a time when case rates and deaths from the virus are at their lowest point in Michigan since August. On Monday, the state reported 1,258 newly confirmed cases reported Saturday to Monday, an average of about 420 per day, and six total deaths.
Since the pandemic began, there have been more than 2 million confirmed cases in Michigan and more than 33,750 deaths from COVID-19.
The change in the way the state will report cases and deaths going forward adheres to a national surveillance strategy created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the state health department.
“At this stage in the pandemic, daily updates do not inform policy or contribute to the national surveillance program,” Sutfin said. “Many states have also begun to move to less frequent public reporting of data.
“There has been documented variation in the day-to-day reporting of COVID-19 infections due to behaviors in testing, frequency of reporting from laboratories or providers, and case processing. This variation can skew the true trends in disease occurrence.”
Because at-home rapid antigen tests are now widely used, Sutfin said the state health department will include both probable and confirmed cases in its future updates.
“Reporting on the combination of confirmed and probable cases reflects the type of reporting conducted by CDC and many other states,” she said. “With antigen tests being used broadly, and with the confidence that these are true cases, reporting the combination allows for easier trend comparison nationally.”
Another change is that the health department will no longer report how many COVID-19 deaths were discovered during a review of vital records.
“We will still conduct vital records reviews, but we will not be breaking out how many deaths were identified using that method,” Sutfin said, adding that the change “does not impact on our timely ability to accurately characterize the number of, and the trends in, COVID-19 deaths.
“Case referrals and investigations happen at a single point in time. The use of vital records to ascertain deaths associated with illness is a common surveillance strategy to better describe the impact of infections. When the number of individual case investigations decrease, Vital Records review may be the primary methodology for COVID-19 related death identification.”
Sutfin noted, however, that the new reporting plan could change along with pandemic trends.
“As we move through the pandemic cycle, Recovery, Readiness and Response, we will adjust the state’s recommendations and responses, including reporting, as needed,” she said.
Contact Kristen Shamus: [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.