Report says poor COVID-19 data hampered U.S. response

July 22, 2020

As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise across the country, several U.S. cities are starting to tighten their restrictions on businesses, and some cities and counties are on the verge of returning to lockdowns, according to a news report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota.

The U.S. COVID-19 case total rose to over 3,800,000, including more than 141,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.

Meanwhile, a report overseen by former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, MD, argues that incomplete and inconsistent COVID-19 data from states, along with the absence of national leadership, is behind the poor U.S. response to COVID-19. The report comes as CDC data suggest that the number of people infected with the coronavirus in different parts of the country is likely far higher than the number of reported cases.

In related news, a report released by Resolve to Save Lives is the first to take a comprehensive look at the COVID-19 data that all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are using to track and control the virus. The analysis of COVID-19 dashboards found several critical gaps, with incomplete and often inconsistent data. Nearly 40 percent of states do not provide any information other than new or cumulative confirmed cases, and some do not specify whether a case is probable, confirmed, or recovered.

Not a single state reports turnaround time for diagnostic tests, while just two states report how quickly contact tracers were able to interview people testing positive. Only 18 percent and 37 percent of states are reporting on influenza-like illness (ILI) and COVID-like (CLI) illness, respectively, two important indicators of potential COVID-19 spread. The analysis also found that one-third of states do not report data on outbreaks in congregate care facilities such as nursing homes and meatpacking plants, which have driven the spread of the virus in many communities. Many of the dashboards are also difficult to navigate, making it hard to find key information.

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