Tennessee Moves To Listing Coronavirus Deaths By County After Criticism

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tennessee has moved to identifying coronavirus deaths by county after some criticism, officials said.  

Governor Bill Lee said, "Unified Command in conjunction with the Department of Health will be releasing three new numbers in the daily reporting: negative results by county, projected number of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and deaths identified by county."

 Several states are releasing more information to its citizens than Tennessee about the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus, Deborah Fisher, the executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said earlier.

A number of states, including Georgia, release the county where coronavirus victims lived, but Tennessee was not at the time.

Shelley Walker, of the Tennessee Department of Health, earlier said, “We are providing numbers of deaths at the state level only due to the risk of reidentification of those individuals."

Ms. Fisher said, "Other states, however, have safely released confirmations of COVID-19 deaths by county without identifying the deceased, including Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Washington, Michigan, West Virginia and Iowa.

"Some states provide age and sex. Others have given more information, such as whether the person had an underlying condition, or even a more specific location than county - such as a city or even workplace.

"Some states are also releasing information on the current number of hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients.

"Tennessee does not list current hospitalizations, but does show on its COVID-19 website how many have ever been hospitalized for COVID-19. The state explains that '(i)nformation about hospitalization status is gathered at the time of diagnosis, therefore this information may be incomplete. This number indicates the number of patients that were ever hospitalized during their illness, it does not indicate the number of patients currently hospitalized.'

"The identity of nursing homes that have had confirmations of COVID-19 cases has also been shared in some states. In Colorado, a public records request shook loose this information.

"Local press, local mayors have been filling in details of COVID-19Despite the lack of information from the state, the press has been collecting data from local government officials and other sources.

"For example, Josh Breslow, a reporter with WKRN Channel 2 in Nashville, tweeted on Sunday that even though the state won’t share county-by-county death data, his news station is building its own data, using on-the-ground reporting from local sources. Undoubtedly, newsrooms across Tennessee are doing the same."


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