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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A month after the Trump administration changed how hospital data is reported, the public release of this data "has slowed to a crawl," the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: This is the latest example of how the world's wealthiest country just can't get it together.

Testing and case data — which tell the story of where people are getting sick — have been a problem for the last six months. This latest fiasco blurs the picture of how many people are getting very sick at a given time, which until now has been a more reliable measure of the pandemic.

Driving the news: The Department of Health and Human Services last month ordered states to report coronavirus hospitalization data directly to the agency, rather than to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as they'd been doing.

  • Now, important data, like the number of beds occupied by coronavirus patients, is lagging by a week or more.
  • The implications go beyond tracking the virus. Hospitalization data is also used by agencies to determine where to send remdesivir and personal protective equipment.

What they're saying: “The transition has been a disaster,” Jeffrey Engel, senior adviser to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, told the WSJ. “What HHS said was that the CDC was not nimble enough and couldn’t handle new data elements, and that’s simply not true.”

The other side: HHS officials told the WSJ that the new system has a more complete set of data, but that the quality-control process has led to some delays as the new system gets up and running.

The bottom line: We're doing a terrible job handling the pandemic, at least relative to other wealthy countries. The fact that we don't have a good idea of what's happening in real time – and it's getting worse — is one of the major contributors to that failure.

Go deeper

Nov 18, 2020 - Health

Over a quarter-million people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The United States topped 250,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday as infections soar in nearly every pocket of every state in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Why it matters: The sharp rise in the number of cases and fatalities has accelerated calls for government action. Wednesday's news exceeded infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci's March prediction in which he said "we should be prepared" that COVID-19 could kill 240,000 Americans.

Nov 18, 2020 - Health

Pfizer says latest data shows its coronavirus vaccine is safe and 95% effective

Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Pfizer said on Wednesday that its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective and has no serious side effects.

The state of play: The company said they have enough safety data now and plan to request an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration "within days."

The Thanksgiving time bomb

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are at new peaks, cities and states are weighing second lockdowns, and flu season is upon us — but we're all looking the other way.

Why it matters: Pandemic fatigue has set in and the nation has collectively stopped caring just in time for the holiday season. This Thanksgiving could be catastrophic for public health.