With the new CDC site, the federal government again provides regular test data, and for the first time, it does so at the state level. But a first analysis of the CDC’s state-level data reveals major gaps between what many states report and what the federal government reports on them. In Florida, for example, the disparity is enormous. The state government reported on Friday that about 700,000 coronavirus tests have been performed across the state since the start of the epidemic. This count should be authoritative: Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered hospitals and doctors to report their test results to the Florida Department of Health. However, the CDC reported more than 919,000 tests in the state during the same period. That’s 31% more tests than Florida itself seems to think it has done. (Because the CDC says it does not update its data on weekends, we have, throughout this article, compared its numbers to the figures reported by each state on Friday.) When we asked the CDC to ‘explain the gap in Florida, the agency declined to comment on the matter.
“If that’s what they get, the CDC should pick up the phone and call the state of Florida and say,” What’s going on? “” Ashish Jha, the K.T. Li professor of global health at Harvard, told us.
Given the complexity and multisource nature of the data, some variations are certainly to be expected. But the inconsistencies we found suggest that Florida is not an outlier. Using the state numbers that best match the CDC’s release, in 22 states, the number of tests reported by the CDC differs by more than 10% from the number reported by the state government. In 13 states, it diverges by more than 25%. In some cases, the CDC count is much higher than what states report; in others, much lower.
In New Hampshire, the CDC reports about half as many tests as the state government; in Indiana, it reports about half. California has reported 1,133,906 test results, but the CDC knows 924,696. (Some of the largest deviations affect some of the country’s most populous states, including not only California, but Illinois and Texas.) The state government of New Jersey claims that 462,972 specimens have been analyzed. The CDC reports only 409,320. Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Maryland also report test numbers that differ significantly from those published by the CDC. Curiously, the national and national CDC totals for cases and deaths correspond well to what we have collected from the States in the framework of the COVID Tracking Project. The same goes for its national test totals. It is only when you delve into the state level test data – where the gaps are skewed in both directions – that things start to go wrong.