Skip to content
CityLab
Culture

Coronavirus Data in the U.S. Is Terrible, and Here’s Why

We have more data than ever to track a growing number of coronavirus cases, tests and deaths. But can we rely on these numbers?
relates to Coronavirus Data in the U.S. Is Terrible, and Here’s Why
Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Every day now comes with a new set of coronavirus data: numbers for positive tests, negative tests, deaths, patients hospitalized, ventilator shortfalls and hospital beds occupied. And, more rarely, the racial and ethnic breakdown of those who have tested positive, and those who have died.

These numbers enable epidemiologists, officials, journalists and the public around the world to track the evolution of Covid-19 in almost real time, making it the first “data-driven pandemic.” There’s a lot at stake in these numbers, and there’s a major problem: The data on which we are basing decisions is imperfect and incomplete.