Federal data updates, Nov. 22

America’s federal public health agencies are busy in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, as are the researchers and volunteer networks filling those agencies’ information gaps. Here are three major updates:

  • CDC’s COVID Data Tracker now reports more county-level data: Since it was first published in the spring, the CDC’s COVID-19 data dashboard has included cases and deaths by U.S. county, relying upon data compiled by USA Facts and verified by the agency. As of yesterday, the county dashboard now also reports total PCR tests and test positivity. Testing data have previously been available directly from the HHS (state-level) and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (county-level), but the CDC dashboard is far more accessible. Users can select a specific county and see a variety of trends in cases, tests, and deaths. The data from this dashboard aren’t yet available for download; I’ll report back if this changes.
  • Pharmacies will be able to distribute COVID-19 vaccinesLast week, the HHS announced that the agency has set up partnerships with both national pharmacy chains and networks representing smaller pharmacies in order to broadly distribute COVID-19 vaccines as they become available. (Pfizer applied for Emergency Use Authorization this past Friday.) According to the HHS, these partnerships cover “approximately 60 percent of pharmacies throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.” The press release does not mention how these pharmacies will be plugged into their respective state vaccine registries.
  • How state COVID-19 dashboards are faringAlthough many states are reporting more COVID-19 data than they were last spring, their dashboards are overall still not conveying some key metrics, according to a new report from Resolve to Save Lives. This research group, a nongovernmental initiative run by the global health organization Vital Strategies, first reviewed state dashboards in July. (See my first issue for more details.) The new report—along with an interactive map—reflects improvements that states have made since the summer while highlighting what crucial public health information is still missing. Case investigation and contact tracing are two key areas where “data… remained largely unavailable.”

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