It’s Happening: A National Weather Service for Disease Threats

The CDC has put into a motion a plan to better forecast disease threats using real-time data and analytics.
 
Funded by the American Rescue Plan, the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics will focus on real-time information sharing to trigger governmental, private sector, and public actions in anticipation of domestic and global health threats, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
 
The prominent public health researchers tapped to lead the effort have long called for such a project, likening it to a National Weather Service for disease outbreaks.
 

Filling a gap: The CDC has come under fire for gaps in data reporting that sowed confusion and likely exacerbated a pandemic that has now killed 4.5 million people worldwide.

For example: In recent months the US held data close to the chest on the Delta variant, giving vaccinated Americans the green light to remove their masks even as other countries were releasing data suggesting vaccines’ effectiveness was waning, The Washington Post reports. More on data failings below.

Systems Failure

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, data-collection shortcomings at overwhelmed state health departments thwarted health officials’ abilities to identify and contain outbreaks and raised the curtain on long-neglected state and local health systems.
 
Among the findings of a 6-month Politico investigation: delays in reporting COVID test results, sometimes by weeks, arcane computer programs that impeded data collection, and severely understaffed contact tracing programs. Despite these limitations, federal agencies relied on states for case and death counts. 
 
“This was a big failure of effective tracking of the pandemic by nearly all, if not all, states, despite really hard work by really smart people,” said former CDC director Tom Frieden. “It's not going to be easy to fix.”

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