Surveillance for coronavirus is hit and miss in the US and needs to be coordinated so every state is reporting the same data, according to a new report from the University of Minnesota.
“The country’s approach to surveillance thus far has been lacking in consistent methods and strategy, which has hamstrung response efforts,” the report from the university’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) says.
“The lack of reliable and comparable national data on Covid-19 makes it difficult to develop, assess, and evaluate public health policies across the country. Much of this is the result of a patchwork of variable policies for testing and surveillance in different jurisdictions, despite recommendations from the CDC for standardized reporting,” it adds.
“For example, not all states report probable cases in addition to confirmed cases and deaths, and some states combine results of positive molecular tests with positive antibody tests, while others do not.” Plus, there is no consistent monitoring of who has antibodies against coronavirus, which would help efforts to tell how many people have already been infected.
“It would be very useful to also distinguish tests performed in people who have symptoms versus people who do not have symptoms,” the report adds.
The CIDRAP report finds a lack of uniform and consistent data makes testing information less useful than it should be.
“Testing is a key feature of an effective surveillance system, but the lack of consistent, widespread access to testing within and between states complicates the meaningful interpretation of data at the state and national levels,” it says. “State-level data do not always include critical elements, such as the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, nor additional important demographic information such as age, gender, race/ethnicity and location.”
The report recommends a national standardized approach to coronavirus surveillance.
“With the fall influenza season approaching, federal, state, local and territorial health officials need to begin now to determine strategies for coordinating surveillance for both COVID-19 and influenza,” it says.