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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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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Visualizing COVID-19

A recent Stacker story allowed me to pay homage to the real viz experts. I compiled 50 charts from public sources which show the impact COVID-19 has had on America and the world at large, including a few charts I made myself. The charts visualize case counts, mortality comparisons, economic indicators, outbreak sites, and more. Frequent readers of this newsletter might recognize a few of the sources I used.

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CDC’s failure to resist political takeover

This past week, two outlets published major investigations of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). The first story, by Science’s Charles Piller, focuses on White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and her role in the hospitalization data switch from the CDC to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The second story, by ProPublica’s James Bandler, Patricia Callahan, Sebastian Rotella, and Kristen Berg, provides a broader view of internal CDC dynamics and challenges since the start of the pandemic.

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