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Editorial: Keeping the COVID information dashboard in operation best serves Nebraska

Editorial: Keeping the COVID information dashboard in operation best serves Nebraska

021821-owh-oped-edit-certainty-p1 (copy) (copy)

A sign directs veterans to where they can get the COVID-19 vaccine at the VA Medical Center in Omaha.

Nebraska’s online health information dashboard went away months ago. COVID, however, did not. Medical reality continues to assert itself strongly in Nebraska, taking the form of significant COVID hospitalizations and high stress on the state’s hospital and medical staff.

Now the dashboard is back in operation. It’s the right decision by Gov. Pete Ricketts. The public needs that information, and the state’s medical professionals certainly do.

Nebraska is home to some of the nation’s most respected experts on virus threats, and those specialists have been fervent in calling for the dashboard’s return. COVID cannot be simply wished away. The ongoing health threat is too strong, and the need for full medical information is crucial.

Ricketts has said he approved resumption of the dashboard because COVID hospitalizations have topped 10% of the state’s total staffed hospital beds. If the percentage drops below 10%, he said, he will take down the dashboard again. But such a move would ill serve the state. There’s no call to use such an arbitrary percentage as the rationale for stymying the public’s ability to understand the scale of the ongoing virus threat.

Having full information on an ever-changing health situation helps medical staff across the state. Empowered with up-to-date information, they can best respond to the real-world, on-the-ground medical need.

It’s odd that the state says it’s still providing the COVID information to federal authorities but not to Nebraskans themselves. That approach greatly complicates Nebraskans’ ability to understand the health situation. Plus, such thinking takes a long-standing principle touted by the governor and others — that local control, rather than federal control, is best — and stands it on its head.

The wise course for Nebraska is to listen to the health experts. That includes their call for the COVID dashboard to remain up. Such a course empowers Nebraskans and maximizes our health sector’s ability to address new developments. It is a common-sense component in the battle to contain this threat.

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