Last week, I asked readers to share what information or context gaps they see in COVID-19 coverage from other publications. Thank you to everyone who responded—these answers will be driving what I report on going forward.
Here are a couple of responses I’d like to highlight:
- Two readers discussed a need for more local data. State-level reporting can obscure COVID-19 patterns at the county level, while even county-level data can obscure differences between urban, suburban, and rural areas in the same county. Some states do report data at the ZIP code or Census tract level, but this is—as you can probably guess—very unstandardized and difficult to compare broadly. President-Elect Joe Biden promises a Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard with ZIP code-level data, though; hopefully we may see this granular information come January.
- One reader discussed a need for data on how COVID-19 is impacting K-12 schools, suggesting a section in each week’s newsletter. I wrote about schools this week, but they are definitely a topic that demands more coverage, especially as K-12 districts and higher ed institutions alike begin planning how they will tackle the spring semester. Expect to see more school data in the coming weeks!
- Another reader said, “I do not have a good idea of how many people are really affected by COVID-19.” How many people were hospitalized or had long-term health issues as a result of the disease, and how much did the disease cost these patients? COVID-19 long-haulers—those who have the disease for many months—are an increasing topic of data collection, and many long-haulers are even collecting data on themselves. I can certainly feature them in a future newsletter. But I believe many long-term impacts, ranging from lost income to excess deaths, will not be fully understood until years after the pandemic.
- A reader who works as a local journalist discussed how they see other reporters “failing to fundamentally understand data and how it’s used.” They went on to add, “Make every journalist take a data class.” I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. Journo readers, keep an eye out for more resources (and possibly even events) that could help you out along these lines.