Major data gaps undercut U.S. response to outbreaks: media

By Xia Lin

NEW YORK, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- A severe lack of data has routinely had U.S. government officials struggle to answer very basic questions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report published on The New York Times' website earlier this week.

An investigative reporter, Sharon LaFraniere, traveled to Alaska to watch how public health workers collected and stored information, and how they communicated it to the federal government.

"What struck me right away was how much rote effort there was," Sharon was quoted as saying. "At the peak of the pandemic, they had up to 20 people in a conference room manually entering data from forms into computers."

"National Guard volunteers and even the department's own highly trained epidemiologists had to help out. It was an amazing waste of time. Case reports were coming in over the fax machine, which would run out of paper every night," noted the reporter.

"I think it's striking how each health department buys its own systems, and they make their individual decisions without any coordination," added the reporter. "Many end up with databases that do not connect easily to their other systems, or to the CDC (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). So they can't make the data flow."

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