Report from former CDC director’s health group examines how states fail to report key COVID-19 data

A recently released report examines how states across the country are failing to report data necessary to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Titled “Tracking COVID-19 in the United States,” the July 21 report details essential information that U.S. states should report immediately in an effort to help contain the novel coronavirus and prevent further spread.

The report is from Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative aimed at saving “100 million lives from cardiovascular disease and to prevent epidemics, according to its website. Resolve to Save Lives is headed by Dr. Tom Frieden, who is a former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Unlike many other countries, the United States does not have standard, national data on COVID-19. The US also lacks standards for state-, county- and city- level public reporting of this life-and-death information,” according to a website from Prevent Epidemics. “We identified 15 essential indicators, and evaluated COVID-19 data dashboards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

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The report discusses how states offer their own COVID-19 data dashboards, but because they were developed independently, none are consistent in how their state’s data is presented, let alone what data is shown. 

“All dashboards provide some summary information, such as total cumulative deaths, but this is less useful to inform current risk, readiness and the effectiveness of response efforts than more granular information,” the report states.

“We created a standardized survey instrument to collect basic information presented by each state,” according to the report. “This includes the type of information the state has available on indicators we defined as essential: syndromic indicators, cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and contract tracing indicators. We also examined the timeliness of information, and whether the data was available for download.”

The report details the determination of a simple score by examining “whether states had the exact information as specified, similar but incomplete information, or no information at all.” 

Researchers were then able to determine the 15 essential indicators, which include:

-New confirmed and probable cases and per capita rates by date with 7-day moving
-COVID-19 daily hospitalization per capita rates and 7-day moving average
-New COVID-19 confirmed and probable deaths and per capita rates with 7-day moving average
-Time from specimen collection to isolation of cases, by week
-Percentage of new cases from among quarantined contacts, by week

As of July 23, there were more than 4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

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The 4 million cases milestone was crossed in the U.S. at a time when the Trump administration is pushing schools across the country to reopen, while health experts and education officials continue to discuss just how much risk children may face from contracting the novel coronavirus, and potentially spreading the virus to others.

Researchers have exposed the frightening likelihood of silent spread of the virus by asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers. But how major a role seemingly healthy people play in swelling the ranks of those infected remains unanswered — and at the top of the scientific agenda. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.