Tracking COVID-19

 In Events, News, News Releases

Clark college alumnus leads data source that’s powering the nation’s information.

The 2020 prsa spotlight awards was held December 3.

2020 winner of a Merit Award from PRSA Oregon.

Thank you for joining us on June 3 for the virtual event with Clark alumnus Alexis Madrigal, a writer for The Atlantic magazine, who talked about his work around the COVID tracking project. The website is a leading data source that’s powering the nation’s information. The event was hosted by Clark College Foundation Alumni Relations.

Answers to questions >>


The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project is a state-by-state tally of data compiled by more than 100 volunteers and experts. He shared insight about a racial data tracker that collects and analyzes racial data across the U.S. The racial data tracker is a collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center.

Click to check out The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project

Alexis Madrigal is a 2020 Outstanding alumni recipient.

Alexis Madrigal. Photo provided by Alexis Madrigal.

The Atlantic magazine writer Alexis Madrigal ’00 is a 2019-2020 Clark College Outstanding Alumnus. He was a visiting scholar at U.C. Berkeley and a member of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. His book, “Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology” was published in 2011.

Download the transcript


Responses to additional questions


DISCLAIMER: The responses to the unanswered questions from our virtual event on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, Clark College Foundation Alumni Relations Presents: Tracking COVID-19, featuring Clark College alumnus Alexis Madrigal ’00, staff writer for The Atlantic and co-founder of the COVID-19 Tracking Project, does not reflect in any way his responses to the following questions. Instead, the responses were compiled by Clark College Foundation staff members Ed Boston, director of alumni relations, and Rhonda Morin, executive director of communications and marketing. Hence, our responses are extractions from internet searches closely related to the question with the source URL listed as reference. In some cases, the responses may appear to be somewhat vague because the learnings and information associated with COVID-19 are evolving as time goes on. Thank you for your understanding. Should you have any questions, please contact Ed Boston.


Q: Why haven’t recoveries been tracked?

A: About 8 in 10 people who get COVID-19 will have only mild illness. Mild COVID-19 cases still can make you feel lousy. But you should be able to rest at home and recover fully without a trip to the hospital. Scientists and researchers are constantly tracking infections and recoveries. But they have data only on confirmed cases, so they can’t count people who don’t get COVID-19 tests. Experts also don’t have information about the outcome of every infection. Refer to Johns Hopkins University tracker for an indication of COVID-19 recoveries by state as recorded.



Q: How do your account for the inaccuracies of the antibody test results?

A: It appears that some tests were more reliable than others when used according to the guidelines. Here is a summary of CDC advice for health care providers, laboratory professionals and public health professionals using antibody tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This virus is new, and what we know about it changes rapidly. CDC’s guidance will be updated as more information becomes available. Read CDC’s guidance.

>>Choose antibody tests that have Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) external icon from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

>>Minimize false positive results by choosing an antibody test with high specificity and by testing populations and people who are likely to have had COVID-19. When testing people who live in an area where not many people have had COVID-19, consider using a second antibody test in addition to the first to better understand whether the initial result may have been a false positive.


Q: Can you talk about the value of the COVID Racial Data Tracker for local journalists and freelancers, given the budget pressures on news outlets these days?

A: The COVID Racial Data Tracker is a collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center. Together, we’re gathering the most complete race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 in the United States. If you’d like to use our data, whether it’s for a specialized project or just to better understand COVID-19 in the U.S., here are a few things you should know right away.

>>We update the full dataset each day between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. EDT, with limited additional updates as new information arrives.

>>All our data comes from state and territory public health authorities or official statements from state officials. Not all states report all data, which means we can’t, either. Click to read more about our data sourcessee what data states provide or learn how we grade their reporting performance.

>>While we provide more testing and outcomes information than most other sources, we don’t attempt to compile this data at the county or zip-code level, because the high-resolution data we’re seeking hasn’t been available in any consistent way at levels below that of the state/territory. This may change over time, but that’s where we are today.



Q: What is the percentage breakdown in terms of ethnicities that COVID is affecting?

A: From the COVID-19 Tracking Project…We update all the data each day between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. EDT. You can also download CSV files for everything we track, see the dataset as a spreadsheet, or use our APIs. This dashboard includes top-line data from our complete race and ethnicity dataset, which is updated twice per week.



Q: Why didn’t the CDC issue guidelines for data standardization at the very beginning?

A: It was the lack of an integrated modern system with common definitions of the required data, standard format, reporting capabilities, etc. From the CDC… We need a totally integrated, high-speed health data system to keep us safe from diseases and outbreaks. Outbreaks strike frequently and without warning. Novel and unforeseen threats are around every corner. We need the right data at the right time to predict and prevent them. The CDC needs data that can move faster than the disease. We need every system talking to each other in real time — from local communities, to states, to national and global networks — to stay ahead of whatever comes next. The work is underway to create such a network.



Q: What is the greatest, overarching statistical lesson you believe we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: The federal government should provide accurate and timely data. Journalists should not be the primary source. “For many states, the CDC publishes higher testing numbers than the states themselves report, which raises questions about the structure and integrity of both state and federal data reporting.”


Assessment of the CDC’s New COVID-19 Data Reporting, v1.0 (May 18, 2020)


Q: What are some ideas on how to collect more accurate and complete data?

A: States need to be instructed by the federal government (CDC) to provide uniform data sets. But, there’s also the issue that federal public health authorities have elected not to publish complete testing data. Also, contact tracing needs to be reported. And, there’s a lack of data sources for how states are implementing safe quarantine spaces. States are currently reporting two fundamentally unlike statistics: current hospital/ICU admissions and cumulative hospitalizations/ICU admissions. Across the country, this reporting is also sparse. Therefore, it is impossible to assemble anything resembling the real statistics for hospitalizations, ICU admissions, or ventilator usage across the United States.



Q: How many tests per capita should Clark County be doing currently with our 500+ cases and the food manufacturer’s outbreak recently?

A: Though we can’t say how many tests Clark County should be doing, this source tells how many Washington state is doing compared to other states:

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Clark Partners is produced by Clark College Foundation, 2020.The effects of coronavirus on Clark College and philanthropy