Officials in Washington, D.C., have not explained why the city failed to report its COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over a two-week period, prompting local lawmakers to demand an investigation into the incident.
City health officials acknowledged earlier this week that D.C. Health had failed to submit data between April 27 and May 8 but did not offer an explanation as to how the mistake could have occurred. Councilmembers denounced the mishap as dangerous because of the data's role in shaping public health guidelines.
“That disruption harmed District residents, who were left without a means by which to meaningfully assess their risk in the context of updated information conveying the nature and extent of community spread,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to D.C. Health. “The District needs a robust, reliable system for letting residents ascertain the local progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. Immunocompromised people and parents with children under five who cannot be vaccinated especially need the most up-to-date data to make the best decisions for themselves and their families, and we must commit to making that information public.”
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While the district continued to update its weekly dashboard showing weekly case rates and hospitalization numbers, city lawmakers have argued these statistics aren’t as useful because they don’t show the actual number of COVID-19 cases in the district and are often delayed.
“The D.C. Health COVID-19 dashboard is missing much of the data that it once presented, including the information on where outbreaks are occurring that many residents especially those with young children, have told us they have found immensely valuable,” they wrote. “And data that is supposed to be up at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday has, in the past, appeared days later.”
The district reported the missing data to the CDC by Tuesday, showing a total of 1,062 new cases and zero deaths from the missing two-week period, a slight uptick in cases from the weeks before. The dashboard is now up to date and will “work to obtain a back distribution of cases and deaths if available,” the agency confirmed to the Washington Examiner.
However, D.C. Health officials did not give an explanation of how the data was misreported and did not respond to questions as to whether they were investigating the incident.
“DC Health submits COVID data to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weekly — both automatically and manually. This data includes case counts, testing data, and deaths,” officials said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “Data transfer has been restored, and COVID-19 data from the District of Columbia is available for analysis and viewing on the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.”
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Washington stopped reporting daily COVID-19 data on its local health department dashboard in March, noting the district would begin responding to COVID-19 as an endemic illness. But city officials pledged to continue reporting weekly statistics and report daily data to the CDC.
The surrounding area has recently seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, with several northern Virginia counties being moved from low-risk to medium-risk transmission. The district remains in the low-risk category as of Friday.