'What the heck is this?': Pennsylvania lawmaker questions data when COVID-19 hospitalizations drop 30% after switching to HHS system

State lawmakers in Pennsylvania are questioning COVID-19 reporting data after the state health department reported a 30 percent decline in the number of individuals hospitalized with the virus in a matter of hours, according to a report from The Morning Call, a Lehigh Valley-based newspaper affiliated with Tribune Publishing Co.

Within a few hours, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients dropped from 756 to 522.

"A massive drop in hospitalizations? What the heck is this?" the paper quoted Rep. Seth Grove, R-York County, as saying in reaction to the hospitalization reduction. He also told The Morning Call that sudden changes are undermining public trust in the numbers.

Berks County, Pa., commissioners Chair Christian Leinbach also said that the hospitalization data had recently stopped arriving at his office and he was unable to explain reductions at the county level.

The state's health secretary Rachel Levine, MD, said the 30 percent reduction in hospitalizations occurred when hospitals began reporting data to HHS, as mandated by the federal government. The hospitals previously reported COVID-19 data to the CDC.

"There are still some challenges in terms of that reporting," she said.

The Morning Call inquired about the sudden drop with the federal government but did not receive a clear response as to whether reporting methodology changed.

More articles on data analytics:
Texas health department error attributed 225 deaths to COVID-19
Lab delays are skewing COVID-19 case rates in Hawaii, health department says
CDC director: We weren't involved in HHS' decision to change COVID-19 reporting protocol for hospitals

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