Key data points in our COVID-19 tracking are finally beginning to trend positively. In the South, tests rose while cases fell, a pattern not seen there since early spring. Hospitalizations fell for the third week straight, but deaths remained above 1,000 a day on average.
According to the official state numbers, COVID-19 testing has dropped dramatically in August. However, county-level statistics show the opposite story. What’s going on?
Many states have moved toward greater transparency about their test data reporting methods, and we’re making changes to better represent what they publish. We’re also introducing a “new” way some states are counting tests—one we think all states and territories would be wise to embrace.
Testing continues to fall, especially in the South, one of the areas where the country needs it the most. Cases, too, are falling, which remains hard to interpret, given the testing decline—but fewer people are now in the hospital with COVID-19 than last week. This is the second week in a row that hospitalizations seem to have dropped, which suggests that infections may be declining independently of testing reductions.
Hospitalization Data Reported by the HHS vs. the States: Jumps, Drops, and Other Unexplained Phenomena
In mid-July the federal government began requiring hospitals to report COVID-19 data to the HHS rather than to the CDC. We compared current hospitalization data reported by the federal government and state health departments since the switch, and found contradictions that suggest the federal data continue to be unreliable, while the state datasets face their own challenges.
This week’s data marks a return to ambiguities we last saw in April and May. For the first time, we saw week-over-week testing numbers fall—and this decline makes drops in new COVID-19 case numbers difficult to interpret. Deaths continued their steady rise. And new complications like technical glitches and school reopenings threaten to cloud the picture even further.