Data consistency and coordination between government sectors will be vital in the next stage of the United States’ COVID-19 response, said General H. R. McMaster and student researchers during a Wednesday event hosted by the Hoover Institution. “We have to do a better job of coordinating and integrating efforts across our government,” McMaster said. McMaster previously served as the Trump administration’s national security advisor from 2017 to 2018.
Student researchers presented a variety of ways to improve the country’s pandemic response at the event, ranging from refocusing contact tracing to centralizing data collection across states. They emphasized that a collective response — one involving the private and public sector, along with states and the national government — would be key for defeating the virus.
To reach their conclusions, panelist and U.S Civilian Corps co-founder Noah Sheinbaum MBA ’19 said the research team interviewed over a dozen practitioners, policy makers and leaders on the frontlines who have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, synthesizing the information into a final report. Inconsistent data collection methods and a lack of cooperation among government sectors have made nation-wide attempts to mobilize against the COVID-19 pandemic fall short of success, the researchers said.
Researcher Ziyi Wang ’20 M.A. ’22 said the ability to adapt to changes is key when mobilizing a medical response to a pandemic.“A successful approach to a biothreat shares early and accurate surveillance of disease spread, reliable and widespread testing, containment and contagion reducing actions, treatment of the sick and protection of the vulnerable,” Wang said.
According to Wang, the inconsistency of data collection and reporting in the United States prevented rapid mobilization against the spread of the virus. A cohesive universal strategy for widespread testing, Wang said, was not possible due to inconsistent testing capabilities, testing procedures, data collection methods and data reporting methods that vary by state.
“Such errors not only reduce the reliability and usefulness of the data collected, but also complicated cross-state comparisons necessary to monitor the spread of the virus and to surge critical supplies and medical personnel to areas of need,” Wang said. Wang also voiced the report’s recommendation that public health agencies modernize their data reporting systems and create a defined protocol to identify and address data errors when sharing and receiving data.