Missing COVID-19 data leave us in the dark about the current surge
As science journalists, we’re accustomed to data. We sift through it and talk it over with experts. We pay close attention to the stories that numbers can tell. But at this point in the pandemic, many of us are having a hard time finding the story. That’s because the numbers aren’t there alat penyulingan minyak atsiri sederhana.
Data on coronavirus infections in the United States have become less reliable, many experts say. Fewer people are getting tested, local governments have stopped reporting results, and home test results rarely make it into official counts (SN: 4/22/22).
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To be sure, there are still official numbers to be found. They don’t look great. Hospitalizations are low compared with earlier in the pandemic, but they’re rising again, and the case counts that do exist are ticking up, too. After dipping in March, the tally in the United States is back up to more than 100,000 known cases a day. A third of Americans now live in places with “medium to high” levels of virus spread.
With these not-so-great numbers in mind, it’s not a stretch to assume that the missing data probably wouldn’t tell us a cheery story either. We are almost certainly undercounting cases in the United States. And we’re not alone. Amid worldwide declines in testing and sequencing to see where coronavirus is spreading and how it’s changing, “we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said May 22.
We’ve never had a perfect count of COVID-19 cases, of course. Early on in the pandemic, before testing ramped up in some places, scientists found clues about COVID-19’s transmission in odd places. Wastewater testing, for instance, spotted signs of the virus getting flushed down the toilet (SN: 5/28/20). That dirty water continues to be an indirect, but helpful, measure of viral loads in a community. Here in Oregon, where I live, some wastewater spots again show increases in coronavirus, suggesting a surge.