Center for American Progress

COVID data lapses are just one symptom of our ailing public health system
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COVID data lapses are just one symptom of our ailing public health system

Jill Rosenthal explains why lapses in health data for COVID-19 reveal the fragility of the U.S. public health system.

In early May, the Washington Post reported that the D.C. Health Department had, without explanation, failed to share data on new coronavirus cases or deaths with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over a 12-day span. There was cause for concern, as neighboring communities in Maryland and Virginia were reporting the highest case rates in their respective states. The lack of data led to frustration among residents who rely on timely information to assess risk and plan precautions.

D.C.’s missing data — and other data system challenges from Texas, Washington state, and “virtually every other health department” — poignantly reveal the fragility of the nation’s public health data for tracking and monitoring diseases such as COVID-19. The CDC’s national disease surveillance system and COVID-19 community dashboards rely on data supplied by state and local public health departments, which are responsible for collecting information from health care providers and laboratories. Yet reports to the CDC often require that a health department staff member manually correct data imperfections and the workforce is stretched thin, having worked “over two years of 12+ hour workdays,” according to the director of D.C.’s Health Department.

The above excerpt was originally published in The Hill. Click here to view the full article.

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Jill Rosenthal

Director, Public Health

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