Speaker of the House Tim Moore pushes NC health dept. to release more coronavirus case data

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore, (R) Cleveland, says he wants more transparency across the state when it comes to COVID-19 data.

Moore sent a letter Tuesday requesting that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) release county-by-county testing data and information on underlying health conditions related to COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations.

ABC11 obtained a copy of the letter addressed to Secretary Mandy Cohen.

"More robust and in-depth data on daily testing by county -- including all key metrics as well as confirmed cases -- is also needed to provide more actionable information on the spread of the virus. I request that your administration begin to provide more detailed daily testing data by county as soon as possible," Moore wrote in the letter.

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Moore told ABC11 that he and other legislators have been frustrated by the lack of county-by-county data.

He said this data is needed to help decrease some of residents' fears and also help lawmakers make more informed decisions about reopening the state.

"The thought is if you get this data out there and you share it, you empower those local county health departments to be better informed in terms of making policies for the counties; you allow the citizens who are trying to live their lives and know what is it safe to do to have that information and those of us as policymakers need it so as we are passing laws and getting resources deployed that we know that as well," Moore said.

Moore is also asking DHHS to evaluate the COVID-19 situation in areas across the state on a county basis rather than by regions.

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"Our rural residents deserve equal access to testing - and if the facts permit, a speedier return to normalcy. I request that less populated counties not be grouped into regions with major metropolitan communities as we transition to a local approach," Moore wrote in the letter.

He explained that his home of Cleveland County was grouped with Mecklenburg County in a regional approach but their situations vary. Currently, Mecklenburg County has 1,850 COVID-19 cases where Cleveland County has 48. Moore said this distinction is important if leaders choose to reopen portions of the state based on region rather than counties.

"I also don't think it necessarily needs to be a one-size fits all. What's necessary for say Durham or Raleigh or Charlotte, any of our urban areas is not necessarily what you need in Dare County or up in the mountains in Graham County or other places that are rural and have little to no cases," he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Moore said he had not heard a response yet but would be surprised if the county did not respond.

"We've asked in the letter but we've also directed, frankly, that as a condition of their appropriation that they turn this information over," Moore said. "So, there's a part of this of saying, 'We'd like for you to turn this over' but there's also a part that says, 'You shall turn that information over in order to receive these funds.'"

The letter points to the $25 million state lawmakers awarded to the department to increase testing, tracing and trend analysis.

This isn't the first time DHHS has been pressed to be more transparent in its COVID-19 reporting.

Just last week the department released a list of nursing homes with ongoing outbreaks and COVID-19 cases by zip code.
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