Federal data updates, Dec. 13

Rounding out the week with a couple of updates on federal data, unrelated to hospitalizations and vaccines. Updates include: a new app for testing data, a CMS proposal that Medicare and Medicaid providers build standard databases, and the progress of a bill which would make federal court filings free for researchers to access.

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Florida data scientist faces police break-in

In May, Rebekah Jones was fired from the Florida Department of Health. As a specialist in geographic information systems (GIS), she worked on the department’s COVID-19 dashboard; she claims that she was fired because she refused to manipulate data to look like Florida was in a better spot for reopening. After her firing, Jones started her own, independent Florida dashboard which includes more open information and methodology details. This past Monday, Florida state police raided Jones’ home. They seized her computer, which she had been using to update her Florida state and school data dashboards. They also pointed guns at her and her children.

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Vaccines are shipping out, but is the U.S. ready to track them?

Already, four states are claiming that they will be unable to start administering vaccinations until January, while several other states have deferred the decision about who gets a shot first to healthcare providers. While the CDC has issued guidances, many logistics are left up to states—the same type of fractured system which has prevented America from getting its testing under control. True to my beat, I am most concerned about vaccine data. Earlier this week, the New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported that some states are refusing to report vaccination data to the CDC. Here’s why I’m concerned about this, along with some other vaccine-related news and resources.

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National numbers, Dec. 13

In the month of November, one in 74 Americans was diagnosed with COVID-19. This terrible rise in cases has already put enormous strain on the nation’s healthcare system, and the outbreak is not slowing down. One in 131 Americans was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the first 12 days of December alone.

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COVID-19 data for your local hospital

On Monday, the HHS published a new hospitalization dataset including capacity, new admissions, and other COVID-19-related numbers—for over 4,000 individual facilities across America. This is, as I put it in a COVID Tracking Project blog post analyzing the dataset, a big deal. Project lead Alexis Madrigal called it “probably the single most important data release that we’ve seen from the Federal government.” This post explains why the release is so exciting and what researchers may do with it.

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HHS’s hospitalization data are good, actually

A new analysis, published this past Friday by the COVID Tracking Project, highlights how reliable the HHS dataset has become. The analysis compares HHS’s counts of hospitalized COVID-19 patients to the Project’s counts, compiled from states. This recent work benefits from HHS’s expanded metrics and more thorough documentation from both the federal agency and states, and it finds that the two datasets match well when adjusting for definitional differences.

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