Decision arrows man question duped

This column by Mona Weatherly was originally published in the Aug. 26, 2021 issue of the Custer County Chief.

I’ve been duped.

Last week, while looking for information on COVID-19 numbers in Nebraska, I checked out the CDC’s U.S. map of tracking data.

I was surprised and more than delighted to see a good part of Nebraska ranked “low” in transmission. Hurray! We’re doing good.

For a moment I questioned it. Wondered if it had to do with sparse population and little travel, as most counties along the Interstate and a few in eastern Nebraska were ‘high.” But then other states have areas of sparse population (like practically the entire state of Wyoming as well as the Dakotas), right?

Like so many of us, though, I had a lot to do and a deadline to meet. The moment passed and  I forged ahead. I shared what I thought was good news in the Chief.

Last Thursday morning  (with the paper already in the mail and in some mail boxes already!) I was listening to Nebraska Public Radio. My ears perked up when they announced a story about Nebraska numbers on the CDC site.

NPR pulled together what I was missing.

The state of Nebraska discontinued the COVID-19 dashboard at the end of June. I knew that. But what I didn’t know is what Will Bauer and Daniel Wheaton with NPR explained.

Because the state of emergency was ended in Nebraska is June and the dashboard is gone, “local health departments across Nebraska can only share county data for those with more than 20,000 people,” Bauer and Wheaton reported. They further stated, it’s a “far from simple” situation because of federal privacy guidelines and questions about whether or not those guidelines are county-based or ZIP-code based.

Set aside arguments about masks, vaccinations and shutdowns. This is not about being conservative or liberal. This is about getting information. Plain ol’ numbers. You know, the facts.

Most of us, if we buy a car, a house, a piece of land...heck, even a smaller purchase like a cell phone or computer...we do research and find out everything we can about what we’re going to spend our money on. After all, it’s our money we’re going to spend. We want to make the best decision possible.

Now we’re talking our health and the health of our loved ones.

Doesn’t that deserve the best tools and information possible?

Are the numbers low because they are low or simply because there isn’t enough data reported?

Think about it. If I hold a survey to ask people to name their favorite football team and ask only a dozen people, I could say there are only a dozen or so Husker football fans in entire state.

If you apply for a loan and the bank gives you only partial term information, would you agree to the contract? If an agronomist told you, “I don’t have all the data on this new program,” would you sign up your entire farm operation?

How can people make the best decision possible if we don’t have solid information on which to base those decisions?

If our numbers are low because they are low, hurray!

If they are low because we don’t have the data, that’s not fair to the people who use that data to make decisions on whether or not to travel, wear a mask, send their child to school, go to the grocery store, attend a party and do a hundred other routine things.

Don’t provide skewed data and then tell us the decision is up to us. By slanting the data, the decision has already been taken out of our hands.

I ask the governor and the Nebraska Department of Health to re-instate the dashboard.

C’mon, folks, it’s our health and the health of our families and communities that’s at stake here.

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