COVID-19 is still a public health emergency. At the moment, this is true according to both the general definition of this term and official declarations by the federal government. But the latter could change in the coming months, likely leading to more fragmentation in U.S. COVID-19 data.
This week, I had a big retrospective story published at FiveThirtyEight: I looked back at the major metrics that the U.S. has used to track COVID-19 over the past two years—and how our country’s fractured public health system hindered our use of each one.
The HHS changed their reporting requirements, no longer requiring hospitals to include COVID-19 deaths that occur at their facilities in daily reports. BUT: This is not the end of U.S. COVID-19 death reporting. The CDC’s death reporting system is continuing as usual.
A record number of COVID-19 patients are now receiving care in U.S. hospitals, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Even so, reports from the doctors and other staff working in these hospitals—conveyed in the news and on social media—suggest that the HHS data don’t capture the current crisis. The federal data may be reported with delays and fail to capture the impact of staffing shortages, obscuring the fact that many regions and individual hospitals are currently operating at 100% capacity.
I invited Philip Nelson to contribute a post this week after reading his Tweets about his ongoing challenges in accessing his state’s hospitalization data. Basically, after Philip publicized a backend data service that enabled users to see daily COVID-19 patient numbers by individual South Carolina hospital, the state restricted this service’s use—essentially making the data impossible for outside researchers to analyze.