A health care worker administers a COVID-19 test at a Maine Medical Partners drive-in clinic on St. John Street in Portland on Thursday Dec. 17, 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

For the past 10 months we have been providing daily updates of how the coronavirus is spreading in Maine. Starting today, we’re making a few changes to what information we report.

The spread of the virus has gotten dramatically worse in recent months, and we wanted to know if that had changed the kind of data you find most helpful. So we asked what information matters most to you as you monitor the health of our state and communities.

Nearly 600 of you provided valuable feedback that has helped us revise our approach to the daily reports, and guided us as we built new digital tools to track and analyze statewide trends.

Some of the data you’ll recognize from our ongoing coverage. We will continue to report the daily increase in case numbers and deaths from the virus, which you told us were the first and fifth most valuable data points, respectively.

TRACKING THE CORONAVIRUS IN MAINE

You told us that the number of active cases in the state was the second most important statistic for you. The number of recoveries reported by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has become less reliable as it has had to scale back contact tracing efforts since the surge in cases late last year. So instead, we will begin reporting the total number of cases detected in the previous 14 days, to help provide an estimation of how many active cases there are statewide.

We’ll also be adding more context about what the case numbers mean. We’ll continue reporting the 7-day average in new daily cases, which you told us was the fourth most valuable data point, and how it has changed over time. We will be adding the daily and total case rates statewide, which will show how many Mainers have been diagnosed per 10,000 people. Seventy-one percent of you said you would find that number helpful.

The state of Maine’s hospitals proved to be another point of interest and will adjust the data we report accordingly. Starting today we will include the daily net change in hospitalizations, which 36 percent of you requested. We will also add the number of remaining critical care beds, which 28 percent said would be helpful. We’ll continue to include the total number of current hospitalizations, ICU patients and Mainers on ventilators due to COVID-19.

The biggest change will be the amount of county by county data we report. Ninety-six percent of you said you found the breakdowns by county informative as you seek to understand how the virus is affecting your communities.

We have created a new tracker in which you can search and compare any of the counties in Maine in nine key areas: new cases, total cases, active cases, new deaths, total deaths, total hospitalizations, new case rate, total case rate and hospitalization rate. Some of these data points we will be able to backfill to the start of the pandemic. Others are harder to find in retrospect, but we will be reporting moving forward.

We’ve also added a new tracker to see case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths by sex and age. Sixty-seven percent of you said you wanted to see cases by age and 33 percent said you wanted to see cases by sex. Seventy-eight percent said you wanted to see deaths by age and 37 percent said you wanted to see deaths by sex.

New daily vaccination numbers is another piece of information we will be adding, as the state begins to expand into Phase 1B of the vaccination plan. You can find the most comprehensive statewide vaccination data on our tracker page.

You also asked for more daily breakdowns of some key metrics, rather than just the total numbers to date. We’ll begin including the daily positivity rate for COVID-19 tests in Maine, as well as the daily increase in vaccinations nationwide and the daily increase in cases and deaths nationwide, too.

And finally, we’ll be providing the daily case and death numbers from nearby states such as New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, which we weren’t previously reporting but 58 percent of you requested.

Thank you to all who provided valuable feedback on this process. If you have further questions or suggestions, you can contact us at news@bangordailynews.com.

Lindsay Putnam

Lindsay Putnam is a senior editor for sports and features at the Bangor Daily News. Lindsay previously worked as an editor and reporter at the New York Post. She's a York Beach native and Colby College...