A Surprising About-Face in New York as Governor Hochul Requires More Detailed COVID Hospitalization Reporting

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

As her state experiences increased pressure on the hospital and medical systems, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has issued an order intended to bring more clarity to COVID hospitalization data. The order will require hospitals to report whether a patient has been hospitalized for COVID-related reasons or has simply tested positive for COVID while at the hospital for other treatments.

“Someone is in a car accident, and they go to the emergency room and they test positive for COVID while they’re there,” said Hochul, “They’re not being treated for COVID.” A surprising sentiment, particularly to people who have been saying something similar since the beginning of the pandemic when data on hospitalizations became a driving indicator in state and national health policies.

Hochul herself has been spot-calling many hospitals in her state, saying that when asked how many cases were hospitalized for other reasons but tested positive for COVID, the numbers ranged from “20 to sometimes 50 percent.”

As time moved on, we learned that not only can vaccinated individuals carry and transmit COVID, but have breakthrough infections themselves. Therefore, it is important to begin implementing measures that give public health officials – and the public itself– a clearer picture of the pandemic and their local health systems’ resources.

Hochul’s most recent request for increased data transparency isn’t her first, as she has previously made efforts to undo the piecemeal data reporting done under Governor Cuomo.

Giving more context to the data on COVID hospitalizations will help the state parse the load on the healthcare system and give a more accurate representation of the effects of Delta and Omicron. It also addresses a long-time concern of many data scientists, those in the medical community, and others about the limitations of the data we currently collect. It is just unfortunate that it took nearly two years into the pandemic before New York, or any state, had expressly pushed for increased clarity and depth in their data reporting.

Hopefully, Governor Hochul and New York will only be the beginning of a trend where state-level data, as well as the data required and collected by the CDC, becomes far less superficial, and far more informative. It would be particularly helpful too, if Governor Hochul is listening, to require a clearer definition of what constitutes COVID deaths, just as data in admissions might now become clearer.