Featured sources and federal data updates, Feb. 28

We’re sneaking a few more federal updates into the source section this week.

  • CDC changed their methodology for state vaccination counts: Last Saturday, February 20, the CDC made two major changes to how it reports vaccination data. First, instead of simply reporting doses administered by federal agencies (the Department of Defense, Indian Health Services, etc.) as fully separate counts, the agency started reporting these doses in the states where they were administered. Second, the CDC started reporting vaccinations in the state where someone is counted as a resident, rather than where they received the shot. Both of these changes make state-reported counts and CDC-reported counts less directly comparable, since states typically don’t track federal agency doses and count doses based on where they were administered. You can read more about these changes on Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker methodology and analysis blog; Bloomberg is now using CDC data only to update its U.S. data.
  • VaccineFinder is open for COVID-19 vaccines: As of Wednesday, Americans can use this national tool to find COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Just put in your ZIP code and select a radius (1 mile, 10 miles, 50 miles, etc.), and the tool will show you providers nearby. For each provider, the tool provides contact information—and, crucially, whether this location actually has vaccines in stock. Unlike many other federal dashboards, VaccineFinder isn’t a new tool; it was developed during the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009. STAT’s Katie Palmer provides more history and context on the site here.
  • Government Accountability Office may push for more data centralization: The Government Accountability Office (or GAO), a watchdog agency that does auditing and evaluations for Congress, has been investigating the federal government’s COVID-19 data collection—and is finding this collection “inconsistent and confusing,” according to a report by POLITICO’s Erin Banco. While the GAO’s report won’t be finalized and made public until March, the agency is expected to recommend that data should be more standardized. It could call for the CDC to make changes to its data collection on cases, deaths, and vaccines similar to how the HHS revamped collection for testing and hospitalization data in summer 2020. CDC officials are wary of these potential changes; it’ll definitely be a big data story to follow this spring.
  • Global.health is ready for research: Back in January, I wrote about Global.health, a data science initiative aiming to bring anonymized case data to researchers on a global scale. The initiative’s COVID-19 dataset is now online, including over 10 million individual case records from dozens of countries. 10 million case records! Including demographic and outcomes data! If you’d like to better understand why this dataset is a pretty big deal, read this article in Nature or this one in STAT. I plan on digging into the dataset next week, and may devote more space to it in a future issue.
  • NIH COVID-19 treatment guidelines: In one of the White House COVID-19 press briefings this week, Dr. Fauci referenced this National Institutes of Health (NIH) website intended to provide both physicians and researchers with the latest guidance on how to treat COVID-19 patients. The website acts as a living medical document, featuring an interactive table of contents and a text search tool. Follow @NIHCOVIDTxGuide on Twitter for updates.
  • Burbio’s K-12 School Opening Tracker: Burbio, a digital platform for community events, is actively monitoring over 1,200 school districts to determine which schools are currently using virtual, in-person, and hybrid models. The sample size includes the 200 largest districts in the U.S. and other districts with a mix of sizes and geographies, in order to reflect local decision-making across the U.S. See more methodology details here.
  • COVID-19’s impact on LGBTQ+ communities: The Journalist’s Resource at Harvard Kennedy School has compiled a list of recent research on how the coronavirus pandemic impacted LGBTQ+ Americans. In many cases, the pandemic furthered disproportionate poverty and poor health outcomes in this community; they shouldn’t be ignored in COVID-19 coverage.
  • The Accountability Project: A repository of public data run by the Investigative Reporting Workshop, the Accountability Project reached 1 billion records last week. The Project includes several COVID-19-related datasets, including a dataset of Paycheck Protection Program loans and data on hospitals and nursing homes.

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