Federal and state officials across the country have altered or hidden public health data crucial to tracking the coronavirus’ spread, hindering the ability to detect a surge of infections as President Donald Trump pushes the nation to reopen rapidly.
In at least a dozen states, health departments have inflated testing numbers or deflated death tallies by changing criteria for who counts as a coronavirus victim and what counts as a coronavirus test, according to reporting from POLITICO, other news outlets and the states’ own admissions. Some states have shifted the metrics for a “safe” reopening; Arizona sought to clamp down on bad news at one point by simply shuttering its pandemic modeling. About a third of the states aren’t even reporting hospital admission data – a big red flag for the resurgence of the virus.
The spotty data flow is particularly worrisome to public health officials trying to help Americans make decisions about safely venturing out. The lack of accurate and consistent Covid-19 data, coupled with the fact that the White House no longer has regular briefings where officials reinforce the need for ongoing social distancing, makes that task even harder.