It is critical for Biden's team to preserve the HHS hospitalization data

Here is an article in The Atlantic penned by Alexis Madrugal, a cofounder of Covidtracking.com, discussing the database tracking local hospitalization numbers around the country that is housed in Health and Human Services (HHS) and the importance for the Biden administration to retain this valuable resource that the previous administration's pandemic response team assembled.


In the early pandemic, there were no reliable centralized repository of pandemic data, as different states and counties all recorded data in different ways. To counter this, Madrugal and others founded The Covid Tracking project, that assembled this data together, doing the painstaking work of coordinating with the various municipalities to understand and account for the various details about how they were recording their data. This took a virtual army of volunteers, and countless hours, but build the most reliable resource of USA covid related information.


Back in the mid-July when it was announced that HHS was going to bypass the CDC and manage hospitalization data directly, it was panned by some in the media as a politically motivated attempt by the administration to control the data. But the stated motivation was that the CDC systems were not equipped to track the type of hospitalization data needed for COVID-19, and so they wanted to build a system designed and streamline the process of sharing and reporting.


In this article, Madrugal emphasizes that these data have become the best source of hospitalization data in the USA, and that this might be the most important type of data in managing the pandemic right now as one of the key management goals is preventing the hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. These have been used by the PolicyLab team at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in collaboration with University of Pennsylvania with which I have been collaborating, and has been tracking the dynamics of the USA pandemic to help provide guidance to local leaders in helping them manage the pandemic. The dashboard on that website will soon include these data summarized over time by state so individuals can track hospitalization levels in various parts of the country.


Incidentally, pandemic response team leader Deborah Birx played a huge role in this effort. As I have emphasized at other times, I have had a glimpse of her work based on weekly interactions with the PolicyLab team and seen that she is working tirelessly behind the scenes to understand pandemic dynamics and help local leaders prevent and manage viral surges. Although much of her work is not visible to the public or recognized, I consider her one of the heroes of the pandemic and a true public servant.


There is a concern about the future of this data resource under the changing administrations. Hopefully Biden and his team preserve this database and ensure that it is retained and properly manage to ensure our policymakers and scientists continue to have access to this valuable data source.




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