Editor's note: The details in the story could change after COVID-19 vaccines become available to Joint Commission surveyors.

Although The Joint Commission (TJC) began resuming regular accreditation surveys and reviews last June, it put a number of safety protocols in place to ensure safety of both TJC staff and health care personnel as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

However, before scheduling or conducting a survey TJC also reviews a number of trends to determine when risk is low enough to safely conduct a survey. To assist its customers, TJC is being transparent in its decision-making process by sharing a publicly available dashboard that shows COVID-19 prevalence and trends on a county level, which is one of the factors it uses when determining when to schedule a survey.

In addition to showing a county’s total number of cases, it also details new cases over the last 14 days and percent positive rate for COVID-19 testing. Scott Williams, director of research at TJC says that, “The goal is to allow organizations to view the same data that we are using, so that we can reach a shared understanding with our customers.”

In general, TJC will not conduct an onsite survey in an area that is seeing new case rates higher than 3.5 cases per 1,000 residents. Williams says the threshold is consistent with the Harvard Global Health Initiative’s system, which classifies an area with 25 new average daily cases per 100,000 residents as “high risk.”

When local case rates are below the 3.5 cases per 1,000 residents threshold, TJC will also look at a number of other factors to help in its determination, such as a review of state-level travel restrictions or other local requirements, COVID-19 testing data, and the growth rate of new cases.

“The trend and case rate are considered in combination,” Williams explains. “The survey for an organization that is in a county with a high case rate with a decreasing trend may be scheduled differently from an organization that is in a county with a low case rate and an increasing trend. Of course, even if we do schedule an onsite survey, we keep a close eye on the county as the survey date approaches. If circumstances have changed, an onsite event may need to be postponed.” 

The easy-to-use dashboard is updated daily with COVID-19 testing data from the COVID Tracking Project and the New York Times.