A new report found that “life-and-death information” is being pulled together haphazardly by individual states in a way that is “inconsistent, incomplete and inaccessible in most locations.”
A global health group has pulled together the first comprehensive review of coronavirus data in the United States, and the emerging picture is one of chaos. Five months into the pandemic, the United States still doesn’t have an efficient process to report vital information that could help contain the disease—an unacceptable situation experts are saying is the responsibility of President Donald Trump.
The report, “Tracking Covid-19 in the United States,” found that “life-and-death information” is being pulled together haphazardly by individual states in a way that is “inconsistent, incomplete and inaccessible in most locations.” The lack of a federal strategy to fight COVID-19 has left critical data on testing, contact tracing, new cases, and deaths being inconsistently tracked, reported, and compiled in a usable form for public health officials and policymakers.
Improved data could help prevent tens of thousands of needless deaths.
Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), led the review team for Resolve to Save Lives. He concluded that the “lack of common standards, definitions, and accountability reflects the absence of national strategy, plan, leadership, communication or organization and results in a cacophony of confusing data.”
During a news briefing Tuesday, Friedan said that “because of the lack of national leadership, we don’t have common standards, definitions, targets or accountability.” As a result, despite a “tsunami of data points,” the United States is “flying blind on the actual risk and the effectiveness of the response.”
Resolve to Save Lives collaborated with Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the American Public Health Association, among other health organizations, to pinpoint 15 essential data points needed to combat the spread of COVID-19. Categories listed include new confirmed cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and contact tracing.
They found across all states, more than half of the essential data points are going untracked and unreported. Not one state is correctly reporting 11 out of the 15 points, and more than half of the states are failing to report any information at all on nine of the categories. And rates of contact tracing, the method of interviewing people who test positive to determine others they may have infected, was “abysmal.”
Countries such as Germany, Senegal, and South Korea have created standardized COVID-19 databases that are accessible for health experts across their nations, but Trump has undercut the CDC at every turn, and last week removed the nation’s premier public health organization from the data gathering process altogether. With science taking a backseat to politics, the president has continued to predict the virus’ disappearance as his approval ratings plunge.
The impact has been disastrous: over 140,000 Americans dead, near double the number in Brazil, the closest nation in terms of morbidity.
“I’ll be right eventually,” Trump said Sunday on Fox News, referring to the pandemic. “It is going to disappear. I’ll say it again, it’s going to disappear and I’ll be right.”
He repeated the assertion that the virus will go away during a coronavirus briefing on Tuesday—the first he’s held in months.