Six more things, January 9

Here are six other COVID-19 news items from the past week that didn’t quite warrant full posts. Including: CDC isolation guidance, a new reporting recipe, a variant that you should not freak out about, and more.

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As Omicron hits schools, K-12 data void is wider than ever

Two years into the pandemic, you might think that, by now, schools would have figured out a strategy to continue teaching kids while keeping them safe from the coronavirus. Instead, the school situation is more chaotic than ever. Thousands of schools went online or closed entirely this week, likely more than in any other week since spring 2020. And yet: there is currently no national data source tracking COVID-19 cases in schools, and nine states fail to report any data on this crucial topic.

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FAQ: Testing and isolation in the time of Omicron

As Omicron spreads rapidly through the U.S., this variant is driving record case numbers—and record demand for testing, including both PCR and rapid at-home tests. In other words, it feels harder than ever to get tested for COVID-19, largely because more people currently need a test due to recent exposure to the virus than at any other time during the pandemic.

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New CDC mortality data: “Real-time public health surveillance at a highly granular level”

This past Monday, the CDC put out a major data release: mortality data for 2020 and 2021, encompassing the pandemic’s impact on deaths from all causes in the U.S. The new data allow researchers and reporters to investigate excess deaths, a measure of the pandemic’s true toll—comparing the number of deaths that occurred in a particular region, during a particular year, to deaths that would’ve been expected had COVID-19 not occurred. At the same time, the new data allow for investigations into COVID-19 disparities and increased deaths of non-COVID causes during the pandemic.

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Public health data in the US is “incredibly fragmented”: Zoe McLaren on booster shots and more

This week, I had a new story published at the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight. The story explores the U.S.’s failure to comprehensively track breakthrough cases, and how that failure has led officials to look towards data from other countries with better tracking systems as they make decisions about booster shots. In the CDD, I’m sharing one of the interviews I did for that story.

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COVID source callout: Booster shot trends

Since August 13, the CDC’s dashboard says, about 7.3 million Americans have received a third dose. These booster shots are obfuscating the country’s vaccination trends. Over one million people have been vaccinated every day for the past week, but roughly half of those people were getting their booster shots.

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