Interview is edited for clarity and length. Transcription is for the shorter, radio edited version.
Mathew Holloway has been tracking the pandemic since it first reached Missouri in March of 2020. He posts near daily COVID-19 update with a focus on Missouri on his Facebook page.
You can also submit your own Missouri COVID-19 related data, view his mega sheets of COVID or consider making a financial contribution to Matt and all of the independent work that he’s conducted on tracking the pandemic.
You can also follow him on Twitter at _MattyFlex
FRED FLETCHER-FIERR (HOST) : It’s Morning Edition on KRPS; I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. COVID-19 conditions in the Joplin area have significantly improved over the past couple of months. It appears that the rise in vaccination levels has helped lower the number of patients hospitals are seeing. But how is the rest of Missouri fairing? Joining me this morning is Data Researcher Matthew Holloway who’s been closely tracking the pandemic. Good morning Matthew and thanks for joining me.
MATHEW HOLLOWAY (GUEST) : Hey, good morning again. Thanks so much for having me.
FRED FLETCHER-FIERRO : It appears that for now, the worst of this phrase of the pandemic is over, I say that because we don’t know what the future holds. But not every area or part of Missouri can say that. Which area is being affected the worst right now?
MATHEW : The hospital systems largely are back in a place where they can handle the volume of ill patients requiring a hospitalization or ICU’s right now. So that’s a really positive thing. There are still a couple of rural areas, particularly in Southeastern Missouri. I think Hickory county has had the highest rate of case increases over the past couple of weeks.
We’re still seeing those rural areas with almost kind of trickling in new cases, new illnesses, some require hospitalizations, but for the time being, like I said, the volume of individuals that are being admitted, seems to be, pretty stable across the state.
FRED : You mentioned the last time that we spoke that it was south most Southeast Missouri seeing the brunt of it. You mentioned also that there, there, there was a lag in reporting between the state of about two weeks. Is there any chance that it’s going to improve the longer we continue to track the pandemic?
MATHEW : When it comes to reporting deaths, I don’t expect that to improve until the process is changed again, that’s. You know, the medical, or if someone is certifying those deaths and then they’re sending that through the mail to the state. I think that as far as deaths are concerned, we’re always going to see that delay until at least they maybe introduce an electronic system to verify.
But ,with cases, I think that largely, we’ve made significant improvements across the state since the beginning of the pandemic. And a lot of health departments have kind of taken it upon themselves to share that data.
FRED : I’ll switch topics here to a related topic, but not COVID-19, We’re early in the flu season. Typically hospitals see a rise in flu cases between October and into March of the following year. Is there anything in tracking COVID-19 so closely that could also be used to understand the spread of the flu in Missouri?
MATHEW : I think, you know, for me, I typically go through an illness every winter. And I didn’t get that this last year because I was more mindful of my mitigation strategy. So I wore my mask everywhere. I stayed away from people and so what we saw across the state was just the number of flu cases last year really tanked. It was one of the better flu seasons that we’ve ever had. And I think that knowing, I think that having gone through the pandemic and, knowing how the virus spreads and, and just knowing that the things that help prevent someone from getting sick. I think that that’s going to serve us really well, you know, for the next decade to come, if not more than that, because we were just more mindful of those things. We went a long time without a public health emergency, that was, you know, spread through the air such as, COVID-19. But now that that’s on the forefront of people’s minds, I think that’s going to serve us well.
As far as the data goes. I’m not sure yet. You know, tracking COVID data was something completely new to me last year and not having a good sample size to go off of with the flu season being pretty mild last year. I’m not sure what kind of correlations that we might be able to draw between the two. But I know that infectious disease and public health is certainly more at the forefront of people’s minds. Now that has been probably for the past decade or so.
FRED : Matthew Holloway is a Data Researcher in Southwest Missouri, who’s been tracking the pandemic for almost two years now. Thank you for your work and for speaking with me.
MATHEW : Absolutely. Thanks so much again for having me and have a good one.