CDC is Missing Millions of COVID Case Files Due to States’ Failure to Turn Over Case Information

Sydney Beard, Editor

An NPR analysis found that Around 1 in 5 COVID-19 cases, estimated around 7 million people, are completely missing within the United States. On the online Health Equity Tracker, colorful maps appear and show how the COVID-19 virus has affected different races and age groups across the United States, however, a handful of states are grayed out, and not because they have no more cases.

Health providers have marked fields as “unknown” or simply blank, leaving the present information unusable. 1% of the records presented are missing the patient’s age or gender, while 36% of them have an unknown label on their race/ethnicity. The CDC has asked states to present whether patients have received any symptoms of the virus, yet a handful of states have not complied. Currently, 90% of this information is set as “Unknown.”

There are explanations to why a handful of states are not complying to submit their data, such as the public health being underfunded for plenty of years. In addition, several counties are known to have their own local COVID-19 tracking systems, in which these systems cannot automatically transfer the records to the CDC. Tracking is manually done as well, and Public Health Planning Supervisor Rebecca Rosslet mentioned that they still have to manually transfer over 12,000 records, which is half the county’s overall COVID-19 cases. Roesslet said “Right now, our priority is contacting people who have tested positive for COVID and providing them with the education they need and identifying their close contacts.”

All in all, the major cause for the loss of this data is due to the fact they have to manually imply the data into the system. Janet Pichette, Austin Public Health’s chief epidemiologist, elaborated by mentioning how they wanted to collect more data than the state is initially gathering. Relying on an outside system that might go down unexpectedly is what they do not want to do.