Mass. Stopped Sharing Child COVID Hospitalization Data. We Asked Why

Up until June 30, Massachusetts publicly reported hospitalizations from COVID-19 by age group; as children prepare to return to school with COVID-19 cases climbing back up, those numbers are blacked out

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With rising COVID-19 cases, the ongoing mask debate and kids heading back to school in just a few weeks, NBC10 Boston wanted to know how many kids are hospitalized with COVID in Massachusetts.

But when we asked the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, officials responded that the data is "not publicly available right now."

We decided to dig a little deeper. We went to the state's interactive COVID dashboard and found hospitalizations by age were made public from last year to June of this year.

But, as of June 30, those numbers, including child hospitalizations, are now blacked out.

Massachusetts schools are poised to gain a new tool to help keep students and staff in classrooms even when they might have had possible exposure to COVID-19.

"That's a problem. I think we should have knowledge of that information. The COVID numbers are going up with variant, and that's a problem. Why isn't that available to us?" said Glynnette Scott, a Massachusetts mom.

Barbara Anthony is a senior fellow in health care policy at the Pioneer Institute, which serves as a government watchdog. She said she thinks the state owes the public an "explanation" as to why this important data on hospitalizations by age group has been discontinued.

"I frankly can't think of one off the top," she said. "I think there's concern as kids go back to school soon that they go back safely. We need to be able to track what's going on. By not publishing this data, it's not very helpful, in fact it's a hindrance to the public's understanding."

The state says it plans to adjust its reporting to improve some metrics, but some people are questioning why these numbers that were public now aren't.

"It's important to know. I mean, statistics are one part of the information that we have, and just to know if we saw a sharp rise in cases where kids were hospitalized, that would be concerning," said Rachel Goldsmith, another mom.

NBC10 Boston reached out to the Department of Public Health again Wednesday morning to find out why it is no longer sharing this information publicly, and received this reply Wednesday afternoon: “The Commonwealth maintains one of the most robust and comprehensive public data reports on COVID-19 in the nation and has continued to regularly review and adjust its reporting to improve metrics as impacts of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth has evolved.”

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