Friday, July 31, 2020

New covid tracker highlights rural inequalities; meanwhile, new federal database is rife with errors, analysts say

A screengrab from the CURE database. Washington State University map; click the image to enlarge it.
Scientists from Washington State University's Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine have launched an online tracker that provides daily updates on covid-19 cases and deaths in rural communities.

The Covid Urban Rural Explorer also highlights rural-urban contrasts in the pandemic, providing a daily report on areas with spiking cases. It also identifies rural counties with both limited hospital capacity and rapidly increasing infections. Moreover, it provides daily case and death statistics based on a moving seven-day average.

CURE uses publicly available data. The data on cases and deaths comes from The New York Times (which receives its data from state and local health agencies and hospitals). Hospital bed data comes from The Accountability Project, which receives the data for that database from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Population data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The CURE database does not rely on the new federal coronavirus reporting system. In that system, instituted earlier this month, hospitals bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and file information with a private contractor for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Trump administration promised that the new system would be an improvement, but data analysts say it is "updated erratically and is rife with inconsistencies and errors," Pien Huang and Selena Simmons-Duffin report for NPR.

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