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Added Help On Data Vital

We have been critical at times of online efforts in both West Virginia and Ohio to keep the public informed about the situation regarding COVID-19. Sometimes, statistics posted on the state websites lag significantly behind what actually has happened, we pointed out.

About a week ago, Ohio officials admitted they were overwhelmed. As we noted on Wednesday, they were forced to post a red-letter warning that data being displayed was incomplete. Thousands of epidemic-related reports were still being processed.

Those in charge of updating the COVID-19 websites in both states need help. In Ohio, they are drowning in a sea of reports that need to be evaluated. In West Virginia, some critical data — namely, how hard the virus is hitting nursing homes — is being updated only once a week.

That will not do.

We mean that not as criticism of the men and women in both states who are working hard to keep up with the epidemic numbers. Instead, it is recognition that through no fault of their own, they are in over their heads.

They need help.

Public health agencies throughout the nation are in similar straits. They were structured and staffed to deal with well-baby clinics, vaccinations for childhood diseases, restaurant inspections and other normal-times tasks. Their warnings that the nation was not prepared for a full-scale epidemic were ignored for years.

Now the enemy is not just at the gates, it has breached them.

Neither West Virginians nor Ohioans are being given the information we need regarding the coronavirus epidemic.

Clearly, those who are collecting, processing and posting important statistics online need assistance. That may require paying some temporary employees to provide help. It may mean reaching into agencies not normally involved in public health for expertise in dealing with data.

It will require treating the information gap as the serious challenge it is. Both Gov. Jim Justice in West Virginia and Gov. Mike DeWine in Ohio should issue whatever orders are needed to bring the process of keeping the public informed up to the speed to which COVID-19 has accelerated.

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