SARS-CoV-2 Infection and COVID-19 Surveillance: A National Framework

SARS-CoV-2 Infection and COVID-19 Surveillance: A National Framework (Michael Osterholm and 11 others, CIDRAP, U of Minnesota, July 9, 14p)

Part 5 of The CIDRAP Viewpoint focuses on surveillance—the ongoing and systematic collection and analysis of data—as “the cornerstone of public health practice.” To have a meaningful impact, the data must be organized and analyzed in a thoughtful, structured way, with results “communicated regularly, clearly, and effectively to the public health workforce, policymakers, and the public.”

Unfortunately, CIDRAP finds:

  1. lack of consistent methods and strategies for collecting data across the U.S.; data should be used to define the disease burden, spectrum of illness, and characteristics of infected individuals;
  2. lack of consistent and widespread access to testing within and between states, which complicates meaningful interpretation of data at the state and federal levels;
  3. collected data not reported quickly and uniformly across the US (state-level data do not always include number of cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and demographic information such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, and location);
  4. surveillance systems lack flexibility to adapt and become more targeted to changing g epidemiology, e.g.: high-risk populations and activities;
  5. lack of comprehensive data to address racial and ethnic disparities;
  6. need to expand serosurveillance antibody/serology testing across the US, using comparable methods as part of a national strategy; “it is not yet known how long antibodies persist, or if they protect against future infection.”

Note: Although focused only on the U.S., these complaints can also be applied to global data, which is often poorly collected and/or suppressed by political leaders.  SARS-CoV-2, incidentally, is the formal name used by some scientists for the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

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