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MDH stops publicizing current total COVID-19 hospitalizations

Total hospital capacity remains public, but how many COVID-19 patients are hospitalized is not.

In a move that it says will better portray the severity of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is no longer making public the current number of COVID-19 patients in an ICU bed. 

MDH began providing daily hospitalization numbers on March 19, with the daily report showing how many COVID-19 patients were hospitalized and of them, how many were in the ICU. The last public update came Wednesday, when MDH reported that 148 of 304 hospitalized COVID-19 patients were in the ICU. 

Asked Thursday if there is anywhere the current ICU numbers can be found, an MDH spokesperson said "Not in the same way as before." 

"When thinking about current hospitalizations, that’s more of an indicator of hospital capacity, and the State Emergency Operations Center already tracks information on that, and there’s information shared on the governor’s dashboard around hospital capacity," the spokesperson said. 

"For telling us more about COVID-19 severity, which is what we want to portray on the Situation Update page, this information by admission date actually gives a better sense of severity of disease."

Among the information the MDH is now providing publicly is the daily number of COVID-19 patients admitted to a hospital, and how many of those patients were admitted to the ICU. It is also providing a cumulative number of ICU and non-ICU hospitalizations, but current totals aren't posted. 

What Minnesotans can see is the state's overall hospital capacity on this page. It updates Monday-Friday, and as of Sept. 24 it shows that 1,061 of 2,158 ICU beds are occupied, though again, it does not explain how many of the beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

"We will be adding some additional hospitalization data to our weekly report next week on things like length of stay to fill in more of the picture around hospitalizations," the spokesperson said. "Our intent is to help reduce redundancy and convey a clearer picture of what impact COVID-19 is having in Minnesota by focusing on more specific measures."

The weekly report, which is updated at 11 a.m. every Thursday, will show seven-day averages for the previous weeks in terms of new hospital admissions, in addition to a seven-day average by new ICU admissions. 

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