Spencer Hoole and Jonathan Johnson: Richer COVID-19 data is the key to making policy and business decisions

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, state and local leaders have consistently admonished Utahns to listen to the experts, follow science, and trust elected officials. We get it.

However, what the experts know and what science can tell us are evolving day-to-day as we learn more about this virus and its health and economic impact. Look no further than statements and recommendations made by many of our top health experts and highest-ranking leaders in in January/February and contrast those with their statements in April.

This is not meant as criticism. Many didn’t or couldn’t possibly see the full scope of the crisis. And, it is intensely difficult to make policy decisions in such a high-stakes, fluid environment. It’s a difficult task indeed to build the proverbial plane while you’re flying it.

It’s now cliché for politicians to say they are making their decisions “based on science and data, not politics or emotions.” This is admirable. We trust our local and state leaders are doing the best jobs they can with evolving information.

We need them to do more – much more.

We need both the state of Utah and the Utah Department of Health to provide more robust and granular data. Give Utahns an updated and more detailed dashboard.

We need to know more than the total hospitalizations. Tell us the total number of discharged patients. Showing just an aggregate number of hospitalizations contributes to fear-mongering. New York’s dashboard provides this important data and much more.

Tell us the average and median hospital stay. Tell us the percentage of patients who end up in ICU. The State has these numbers. It uses them to assess hospital capacity. Sharing this information with business and community leaders will help provide better and clearer direction they make important decisions.

Tell us more demographic detail on who has died. For example, tell us the average age, median age, and whether there was comorbidity and/or an underlying risk factor. Based solely on local news stories, we believe 18 of the 34 deaths in Utah (as of April 22) were in long-term care facilities. The two deaths added on April 22 were both older than 85 and in nursing homes.

As Utahns weigh health risks and make decisions affecting the entire community — decisions like reopening workplaces, restaurants and schools — having better, richer data will significantly help in the creation of appropriate timelines.

Tell us the number of untested people told by the county health departments, “We don’t have enough tests, so just presume you have Covid-19.” Utahns need more clarity and better estimates on the actual number of infections. This type of data is critical to getting a more complete picture of hospitalization and mortality rates.

According to today’s experts, this virus is not going away. And these experts say, at best, a vaccine is at least 12 to 18 months from completion. Current “Stay Home” directives and “Shelter in Place” orders are not economically sustainable for any time close to that long.

Just as the government needs data to make policy decisions, so do business leaders and individuals. Now is the time for our state politicians and health officials to dig deeper to provide us with the absolute best and most comprehensive information available. We need full transparency from our leaders.

Give Utahns a better COVID-19 dashboard. Provide this transparency to all Utah citizens.

Spencer Hoole is the CEO of Salt Lake City-based Diversified Insurance Group

Spencer Hoole is the CEO of Salt Lake City-based Diversified Insurance Group.

| File Photo Jonathan Johnson.

Jonathan Johnson is the CEO of Midvale-based Overstock.com and a former GOP gubernatorial candidate.