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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Johns Hopkins University is launching a "pandemic data initiative" to highlight COVID-19 data-collecting and reporting inconsistencies that led to confusion for policymakers and the public, the institution announced Monday.

Why it matters: Lack of granular data on cases, deaths — and now vaccination rates — has been a nationwide hindrance in targeting communities who needed more outreach or resources this past year.

Context: Johns Hopkins became a key resource for data during the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the few institutions that tracked global cases, deaths and recoveries.

"The opportunity to do it better is abundant," Beth Blauer, associate vice provost for public sector innovation at JHU, tells Axios.

  • "We didn't have specific enough data. We didn't know how to guide some of those decisions because we weren’t looking to the data in the right ways," she said.

The state of play: At the beginning of the pandemic, states and local governments were left to their own devices to determine how they would report COVID-19 data.

  • Some states grouped together PCR and rapid testing data with antibodies testing to "bolster and show the impacts" of how much they were doing, Blauer said.
  • In another example, Ohio and Mississippi counted Johnson & Johnson shots under two categories despite being a single shot, which poses problems for calculating vaccination rates.

How it works: The Pandemic Data Initiative will feature ongoing analysis spotlighting data challenges and irregularities.

  • The initiative will be a part of its Coronavirus Resource Center, where the team will also link up with leaders in the public health field to highlight solutions for the COVID pandemic and future crises.

The big picture: On top of the coronavirus pandemic, there are smaller outbreaks of other diseases around the globe, some with pandemic potential.

  • More permanent pandemic preparedness, including better data collection practices, is needed, JHU officials said.

Go deeper: COVID-19 lessons for trapping the next pandemic

Go deeper

Aug 24, 2021 - Health

Arkansas governor says no more ICU beds available for COVID-19 patients

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There are no more intensive care unit beds available for coronavirus patients due to a surge in cases driven by the Delta variant, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Why it matters: It is the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that ICU beds are full in the state, AP reports. The state reached a new record on Monday for the number of coronavirus patients currently on ventilators, according to government data.

Cruise lines step up pandemic protocols as Delta rages

The Carnival Cruise Line ship Mardi Gras departing from Port Canaveral, Florida, in July. Photo: Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Cruise lines are tightening pandemic protocols as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges globally, with Carnival Cruise Line the latest to tighten vaccine requirements.

Why it matters: Cruise ships were a coronavirus epicenter early in the pandemic, and the CDC advised last Friday that people at increased risk of severe illness from the coronavirus should avoid traveling on cruises.

Aug 24, 2021 - Health

Oregon governor announces outdoor mask mandate

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Photo: Meg Roussos/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) on Tuesday announced a new statewide outdoor mask mandate requiring people to wear masks in most outdoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

State of play: Starting Friday, Oregonians will be required to wear masks outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. While the mandate does not apply to outdoor gatherings in private residences, masks are "strongly recommended" when people from different households cannot remain socially distanced.