Key Frederick County COVID data remains unknown due to state server outage | Coronavirus


The country is bracing for a possible surge in the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, but it’s been nearly two weeks since comprehensive data on transmission of the virus in Maryland became available.

The web server outage continues at the Maryland Department of Health after a cyberattack took the agency’s website offline two weekends ago. Some coronavirus statistics are back online — like daily hospitalization and vaccination numbers, and congregational and school outbreak data — but counting cases and deaths and tracking the level of positivity generally available on the state’s COVID dashboard have not yet been updated.

Because coronavirus data is centralized by the state health department, those latest numbers are also missing from the dashboard run by the Frederick County Health Department. According to available data, hospitalizations are at their highest level since late January, but the number of new deaths or cases there have been each day since the state’s servers went out two weekends ago remains unknown.

State Health Department spokesman Andy Owen said in an email that there was still no evidence that any data was compromised in the attack, and that the works investigation and restoration continues “around the clock”. He added that surveillance data that remains offline will be updated at the “first opportunity”, but did not provide an estimate of when that would happen.

In the meantime, the local Frederick Health Department can do little more than wait and monitor for updated state numbers, according to local health officials.

When asked how the server outage affected the county health department, Rissah Watkins and Shawn Dennison — two spokespersons for the department — took a deep breath in unison.

They know how eager the community of Frederick is to get a complete and up-to-date picture of COVID-19 transmission in the county. They were too. But the bottom line, Watkins said, is that “we just can’t share what we don’t have.”

All labs in Maryland report directly to the state health department, which in turn shares data with local jurisdictions, Watkins explained. Creating a new system on the fly or modifying an existing one would be a time-consuming, expensive and difficult process, Watkins said. So, she said, the Frederick Health Department — and others in the state — instead chose to continue to rely on the data-sharing structure in place.

Being able to share daily updates of the number of COVID-19 cases in Frederick County is helpful as it is a way for the county health department to remind the community that the virus is still circulating locally at low levels. high, Watkins said.

But it has been for a long time, Watkins said. Although this data is not currently available, the strategies people should use to protect themselves have not changed: people should always wash their hands, wear face coverings when in public places indoors , watch out for indoor gatherings and get vaccinated.

Both Watkins and Dennison have described themselves as “data people”. They still want the county to have as much information as possible. But the fact that state hospitalization numbers were still available was a silver lining to the server outage, they said — that data remained a useful barometer of community transmission of the virus.

The continued availability of vaccination numbers has also been helpful, Watkins and Dennison said. Watkins added that every vaccination clinic run by the Department of Health still sees people coming in to get their first dose of vaccine.

For those who kept waiting, Dennison encouraged them to speak with someone in their life who got vaccinated to find out why they chose to have it. Parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their 5- to 11-year-old child can also talk to other parents of children in that age range who have chosen to have their child vaccinated, Dennison said.

“It’s not too late to vaccinate,” Watkins said. The Department of Health welcomes all vaccines “for the first time”, she said, and is happy to help people get their second shots and boosters.

Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @24_angier


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