Mar 28, 2022 - COVID

Ask Axios: Is Ohio's COVID data misleading?

Illustration of a cardinal sitting on a branch with a word balloon with a question mark in it coming out of its mouth.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

We're here with another installment of Ask Axios, where we answer your burning questions about our area.

🧐 Reader Ron asks: Does anyone else think Ohio's reporting of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, etc. on a 21-day curve has been bogus for the duration of this pandemic?

  • While it smooths out things on the way up, I wonder if it also extends emergency postures on the way down in a surge. Everywhere else is 7- or 14-day averages.

👋 Alissa here. I checked with the data team at Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center, who explained the advantages and disadvantages of a 21-day window.

Quick take: While we have a better idea of long-term trends, this approach does mean Ohio's data shows less granularity between weeks, which the team says can cause blind spots.

  • "If things jump between last week and this week, but this week has smaller numbers than seen last month, we're missing the most recent uptick," the CRC said in a statement provided to Axios.

Yes, but: As cases decline and more states scale back on daily reporting — including Ohio — such longer-term outlooks will likely become the norm everywhere, the team adds.

The other side: A 21-day outlook also helps the Ohio Department of Health "start to discount external factors and fluctuations that may impact numbers, such as low reporting on a weekend or holiday," spokesperson Michelle Fong tells Axios.

📬 Got questions for about Columbus? Email [email protected] and ask us. We'll find answers.


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