By Brian Skinner, Esq.
In light of today’s press briefing in which Gov. Justice and his team tried to explain how data is compiled to color in the state’s county alert system map, I thought this story by Jenni Bergal in Stateline might be an interesting read.
She writes that because of concerns about the accuracy and uniformity of COVID-19 data, a bipartisan coalition of fiscal watchdogs have banded together to try to help make sure states are compiling and tracking information the same way.
The state auditors will take a close look at how health officials in their own states are collecting, reporting and monitoring data. The goals are to ensure that information presented to the public is consistent and accurate, to allow apples-to-apples comparisons among states and to help officials get a better handle on the issue if the pandemic gets worse in the coming months or there is another disaster in the future.
So far, auditors from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 11 states — from Hawaii to Louisiana — have joined the effort. The auditors plan to release the findings from their states to the public as soon as their work is completed.
In many states, COVID-19 data presented to the public has been conflicting and confusing.
State and local health officials admit they’ve had problems providing up-to-date, accurate information. They say insufficient budgets, technology glitches and disjointed state and local reporting systems can make it difficult to standardize data.
The groups met virtually once or twice a week. By July, they had developed a template that auditors could use to determine how states were reporting and monitoring coronavirus data.
Auditors who use the framework will try to find out whether states collected information such as the type of tests used, the results and case information such as gender, race, exposure source and outcome. They also will look into guidance states give testing entities, how information is to be reported and whether it is timely.
Auditors also would try to determine whether results include information such as the number of positive and negative tests, recoveries and deaths and the source of exposure. They also will ask whether states monitored or sampled testing procedures and data to ensure accuracy and how they contacted and monitored people who tested positive.
Brian J. Skinner is the former counsel to the West Virginia House of Delegate Committee on the Judiciary and counsel to the West Virginia Senate Minority Caucus. He has over a decade of experience as an adviser to legislators on legal and political issues related to pending legislation; providing research and legal analysis services to legislative committees; and preparing bills, resolutions, amendments, and other documents for the West Virginia Legislature.