The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything encountered in recent history. With millions of cases and thousands of deaths; incidence, prevalence, morbidity, and mortality data are generated at a rapid pace. Accuracy in data collection and reporting is needed to inform medical and policy decisions regarding COVID-19 treatment and prevention. To help track the spread and effect of COVID-19, BroadStreet Health implemented a volunteer-driven COVID-19 Data Project with the goal of producing a publicly available database on COVID-19 in the United States (U.S.). The aim of this project is to examine the utility of collecting publicly available COVID-19 data from state and county health departments and to assess statewide data reporting practices. The COVID-19 Data Project trained more than 400 volunteers to collect publicly available primary data for COVID-19 cases and deaths from state and county health departments. Data for this project were collected from March 2020 through August 2020. Volunteers aided in validating data, conducting quality assurances, and addressing data anomalies. The resulting dataset was used to create charts, maps, and other forms of data visualization for public dissemination. All final products, COVID-19 data, disparity data, health policies, and special projects, are reviewed and published on the BroadStreet Health COVID-19 Data Project website. Results show that all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. The team has produced over 3,000 charts and maps depict county- and state-level trends in COVID-19 cases and deaths across time. Regional differences in disease burden are significant. Non-uniform COVID-19 reporting has also been noted. For example, only four out of 50 states report demographic data in relation to testing; three out of 50 states still are not reporting demographic data regarding cases; seven out of 50 states are not reporting demographics on mortality. It was found that states use different definitions for reported numbers. This includes different definitions of positive cases and deaths. Varying definitions may also contribute to observed discrepancies in regional numbers. These findings suggest the need to standardize COVID-19 data collection and reporting practices nationwide. Based on the findings, it can be determined that the pandemic is ongoing and has significant data and policy shortfalls. The next steps for the project are to continue to assess policies, monitor cases, and publish COVID-19 data at the county and state level; as well as to continue providing free, research-ready datasets for the public good.
Grant Number: A special thanks to the ASCEND Program Director (Dr. Jocelyn Turner-Musa) and NIH grant number TL4GM118974 for making this possible.