RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The average percent of hospitals reporting their daily COVID-19-related occupancy statistics to the state has dropped in June, a CBS17.com data analysis found.
The Department of Health and Human Services relies upon — but does not require — hospitals to report their specific figures on open hospital beds and coronavirus patients each day. The agency then discloses the percentage of hospitals that do respond to its daily survey on its COVID-19 website.
Those figures are among the statistics CBS17.com has tracked for the past several months.
The average response rate in June was 83.4 percent — a noticeable decline from the average of 87.2 percent in May.
DHHS spokeswoman Amy Adams Ellis said four of the state’s hospital systems are on board with the automated system and two more are expected to join them this week. The agency hopes to have all hospitals onboarded in the next several weeks.
“The original survey process is a highly manual process, and as hospitals get busier it becomes more difficult for them to complete the manual survey, thereby decreasing the total percent reporting to us each day,” Ellis said.
That aligns with how Cynthia Charles, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Healthcare Association, explained the situation.
“The State and NCHA are working together to urge hospitals to keep the reporting as consistent as possible, and to reach out to offer help to facilities that might have reporting gaps and issues,” she said.
Those figures provide an important measure of the completeness of the data. They’re critical because DHHS considers the trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations as one of the four key measures it is evaluating through the stages of the reopening process, and the state relies on the hospitals to provide those figures.
DHHS cited high hospitalization numbers as one of the reasons it opted not to move the state into the third phase of reopening and instituted a requirement for people to wear face coverings in public.
Through the first 29 days of June, single-day highs in hospitalizations were set 14 times — including a string of five consecutive days in mid-June before the current mark of 915 was set June 23.
The state said there were 843 people in the hospital Monday — the fewest since there 829 on June 16 — but even that update comes with a catch: Just 75 percent of hospitals reported their numbers, the smallest percentage since only 73 percent did so on June 22.
As CBS17.com reported last month, those percentages are higher on certain days of the week than on others. They are usually lower on Sundays and Mondays before rising into the 80s and 90s midway through the week.
Those averages dropped from mid-April and May to June on each of those seven days — and Mondays have become the worst days of all, with an average hospital response rate of 74.6 percent in June. That average was 80.6 percent from mid-April through May.