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Macon County reverses course on daily COVID reports

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DECATUR — The Macon County Board of Health has reversed a decision to reduce the frequency of COVID-19 data reports by county health department staff. 

The board had voted in December to stop the daily release of case numbers, deaths and other relevant information. Instead, health department staff were told to release information on a weekly basis, change the type of data provided and stop reporting the total number of cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. 

Brandi Binkley - headshot


Several board members who supported the reduction in reports had expressed concerns that people were "tuning out" the information, with some suggesting that over-reporting by news outlets contributed to the problem. 

Board member Jeff Entler said the December vote was ill-timed. “Our timing was terrible,” he said during a board meeting Tuesday. “The intent was well-founded.”

Entler and the board members agreed to address the decision again in the coming months.

On Tuesday night, board members heard written public comments from residents concerned about the change, which came as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations surged regionally and nationwide.

Many of the community responses included accusations that the board was being irresponsible with public information and requested that they reconsider the decision.

“I depend on that information to make informed decisions and choices about how to keep myself, my family and my patients safe,” Macon County Board of Health President Vivian Goodman read from a nurse’s email to the board. “The health of Macon County, the commerce, depends on the health of the community.”

Public Health Administrator Brandi Binkley asked the board to allow her to determine the frequency of reports based on state and community data, among other factors. Binkley previously had determined how often the data was distributed and had staff making weekly reports at some times during the pandemic. 

Watch the health board's December meeting 

"My task as the administrator would be that you do trust me to make this choice," she said. 

Board members voted to reverse the decision, allowing for daily COVID-19 data reporting and for Binkley to change the frequency at her discretion. 

“The community deserves this information,” Goodman said, who voted against the decision during the December meeting.

Marisa Hosier, director of health promotion and public relations, addressed the concerns regarding extra pressure on staff while the COVID positivity rates rise. Reporting the statistics on a daily basis did not require any extra work, she said.

“When we did the weekly numbers yesterday (Monday), the time was actually a little bit more,” Hosier said.

While county board of health meetings are typically livestreamed on YouTube and available for replay afterward, Tuesday's meeting encountered technical difficulties. Video and audio disappeared for a period before the board's discussion of the data reports, and the video wasn't available immediately after the meeting. 

Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR


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