CDC Grappling With Data Gaps in COVID-19 Tracking

CDC Grappling With Data Gaps in COVID-19 Tracking CDC Grappling With Data Gaps in COVID-19 Tracking (Dreamstime)

By Theodore Bunker | Monday, 20 December 2021 11:28 AM

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have encountered numerous difficulties in their attempts to track domestic data on COVID-19 cases and transmissions, forcing U.S. experts to rely on data from other countries, Politico reports.

Dan Jernigan, deputy director of the CDC’s Public Health Science and Surveillance office, said in an interview with Politico that the agency has yet to receive additional funding that would help improve their data collection.

"It will be very important that we identify ways to have sustainable support for these non-categorical activities like data modernization," Jernigan said. "That's something that we look to our partners in Congress to identify how best to support the ongoing need for maintaining a good data infrastructure."

Dr. Eric Topol, a molecular medicine professor with Scripps Research and a former member of the advisory board to the COVID Tracking Project, told Politico that "we've done a horrible job from day one in data tracking for the pandemic. We're not tracking all the things that we need to to get a handle on what's going on. It is embarrassing."

U.S. health officials and scientists have been forced to rely on information from outside the U.S., mainly from Israel, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, in order to learn more about the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19.

"There's a lot of data that's coming in from a lot of different places. It's coming in from the U.K., it's coming in from Israel, it's coming in a lot from South Africa, which is ahead of the rest of the world in the experience they're having with omicron," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a statement to Politico. "We've gotten virus either in the live virus form or in the pseudo virus form. But we don’t have enough of this in the United States to be able to bank on our own clinical experience which is in contrast to the South Africans who are in real-time experiencing the clinical impact of omicron."

Bioethicist Zeke Emanuel, a former member of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board during the transition, told Politico that "We're relying on everyone else's data. We should be providing data to the world and we are not. We started [the pandemic] with a serious problem of not enough data and bad data infrastructure. We have not made the structural investments we need. The ideal is that we have real-time data. And we don't have that. We're not even close to that."