Before it made headlines with a sudden resurgence of its outbreak—and despite receiving early praise for its transparency—Florida’s COVID-19 data has been mired in trouble. Under public pressure and threat of lawsuits, the Florida Department of Health has gradually released more data, but some very important pieces remain missing.
Hospitalization data can help us understand the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks in the United States, and even see a little bit of what's to come. Until very recently, we didn't have a national summary figure—now we can finally piece together a national statistic from states that provide it, and estimate the rest.
The US has broken its record for new COVID-19 cases three times in the last week. Thirteen states broke their new-case records since Sunday. In the states with the worst outbreaks, hospitalizations and deaths are rising.
Starting in August, new federal rules will require testing labs to report better data on the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. What happens to this new information is up to state and local officials. Journalists, open-data advocates, and members of the public can help us hold governments accountable for collecting and publishing this urgently needed data.
As exposure risk increases, so does the need for more testing. The more we test, the more cases we can identify—which is a good thing. But are we looking at the right metrics to know if we are performing enough tests?
COVID-19 death data lags behind testing data in ways we mostly understand. What we only partly understand is how an infection rate that seems to be skewing younger will affect the death toll in surging regional outbreaks.