The U.S. urgently needs better standards for COVID-19 data at national, state, and local levels, argues Resolve to Save Lives, a nongovernmental initiative run by the global health organization Vital Strategies. Resolve is led by President and CEO Dr. Tom Frieden, a former Director of the CDC; he worked with other public health experts on a report which reviewed the availability of COVID-19 data in the U.S.
According to Resolve’s report, only 40% of “essential data points” for monitoring COVID-19 are publicly made available by federal and state sources. These data points include new confirmed and probable cases, the share of new cases linked to another new case (through known outbreak sites and contact tracing), and hospitalization per capita rates. Moreover, state dashboards are so disparate in their information presented and functionality that it is incredibly difficult to compare key metrics and get a full picture of the national outbreak.
As a volunteer who works on data quality for the COVID Tracking Project, I am intimately familiar with this problem, but Dr. Frieden describes it better than I do:
The lack of common standards, definitions, and accountability reflects the absence of national strategy, plan, leadership, communication, or organization and results in a cacophony of confusing data. By tracking essential metrics publicly in all states, we can build the transparency and accountability essential to make progress.
Check out Resolve’s report on essential indicator availability by state to see where your state stands, and then, in a free moment between calling your government representatives, call your public health department and insist that they do better.