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How the U.S. gets its Covid numbers

Coronavirus Daily
Bloomberg

How the U.S. gets its Covid numbers

At the start of the pandemic, the U.S. government couldn't answer what seemed like a very basic question you'd want to know about a new, fast-spreading disease: How many people were being tested for Covid-19 across the country?

The Covid Tracking Project, set up in March to answer that question, has turned into a sort of shadow-CDC. Run by a handful of paid staff and hundreds of volunteers, it every day collects the Covid-19 statistics from the U.S.'s fragmented, disjointed public health system.

Bloomberg got an inside look at how the organization was built from a by-the-seat-of-its pants startup in March into a sophisticated data-gathering organization used by everyone from academic groups, the Trump and Biden teams and major media organizations.

A healthcare worker administers a test at a Covid-19 testing facility in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 24.

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg

It's also a reflection on the U.S.'s own capabilities. The success of the Covid Tracking Project has come, in part, because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was never really set up to address the wide, rapid spread of a new pathogen across the U.S. It's revealed the technical weakness at the agency, at a moment when Americans have needed it the most.

Read the full story in Businessweek here.--Drew Armstrong

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