Looking for data reporting and presentation standards for COVID-19

As the world responds to COVID-19, having standardized data could go a long ways:

All in all, information made available by state health departments has been more timely and complete than information coming from the CDC, especially from a testing perspective, for which the CDC only offers a national aggregate not counting private labs. However, there is no overall standard when it comes to the information that has to be made public at the state level, which has led to a large variation in data quality across the country…

The COVID Tracking Project has assembled what the “ideal” Covid-19 dataset should look like. It includes the number of total tests conducted (including commercial tests), the number of people hospitalized (in cumulative and daily increments), the number of people in the ICU, and the race and ethnicity information of every case and death. Few states check all the boxes, but the situation is improving…

Some kind of standard as how to present the data to the public would be helpful. Health departments do not all have the resources to put together custom elaborate data visualizations of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most health departments have adopted geographic information system mapping programs from companies like Tableau and Esri — similar to the John Hopkins University dashboard — but there is no standard and no guidance explaining what should be put in place.

Organizing actions in a variety of sectors – from healthcare to the economy to social interaction to political interventions – relies heavily on statistics about the problem at hand. Without good data, actors are reacting to anecdotal evidence or acting without any basis at all; this is not what you want when time is of the essence. Of course, you can also have good data and then actors can choose to ignore it or draw the wrong conclusions. At the same time, we tend to argue “knowledge is power” and having good information could lead to better decisions.

Hopefully this means that all of the various actors will be better prepared next time with a process in place that will help everyone be on the same page and have the same capabilities sooner.

 

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