Close Close

CDC Loses COVID-19 Tracking Fight (for Now, At Least)

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

One thing is clear from the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention latest weekly COVID-19 tracking report: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently unable to give life insurers, reinsurers insurers and other players with an interest in the outbreak a clear, up-to-date picture of new infection activity.

States like Arizona and Texas have been reporting high new-case counts for at least two weeks.

Hospitals in states like Arizona, southern California and parts of Texas have been reporting very high patient loads for at least two weeks,

But the CDC outbreak tracking map for the week ending June 20, which shows the activity level for “influenza-like illness” out in primary care clinics, urgent care centers and hospital emergency rooms, is all green, except for Idaho, where the map is white, due to lack of data.


  • The CDC’s weekly COVID-19 report is available here.
  • The CDC’s provisional COVID-19 mortality data table is available here.
  • An image of what a Yahoo News reporter believes to be a leaked CDC COVID-19 new-case tracking map is available here.
  • The COVID Tracking Project numbers are available here.
  • The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center numbers are available here.
  • An overview article about the weekly COVID-19 report for the previous week is available here.

The maps have been nearly all green since mid-May.

The CDC uses the influenza-like illness reports, which have been used to track outbreaks of influenza and similar illnesses, for years, to get around concerns about COVID-19 testing problems. Public health officials believe that the symptoms of early COVID-19 cases are similar enough to the symptoms of flu for the flu map to double as a COVID-19 map.

The tracking map is supposed to be showing what’s happening with patients with relatively new cases of COVID-19, or COVID-19-like illnesses, who are just starting to show up in doctors’ offices.

Nuts and Bolts

Because of the nature of the virus that causes COVID-19, symptoms of the illness often show up one to three weeks after an individual has been exposed to the virus.

People with COVID-19 symptoms may take a week or two to develop symptoms severe enough that they need to enter the hospital.

Once patients stay in the hospitals, those who will die may stay in the hospital for a month or more before dying.

Hospitalization and mortality statistics are believed to be more reliable than new-case statistics, because overall death statistics are much less likely to be affected by factors such as differences in how different communities test for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The CDC itself emphasizes that many factors, including state data reporting lags, and the effects of COVID-19 on health care delivery and reporting systems, may affect the completeness of its data.

Other CDC and Competitor Stats

CDC national figures show that the percentage of emergency room visits caused by COVID-19-like illnesses has increased slightly in the past week, to about 2%, but is far below the peak, of 7%, in March.

The percentage of all U.S. deaths caused by  COVID-19 and similar illnesses has fallen to 6.9%. That’s over the 5.9% epidemic threshold for the week, but far below the peak, of close to 28%, recorded in April.

Some other CDC indicators, such as testing lab activity charts, show that activity increased slightly in the week ending June 20.

Until last week, the CDC figures appeared to present a picture similar to what other popular COVID-19 trackers, such as the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and The COVID Tracking Project were showing for comparable periods.

This week, the Johns Hopkins and COVID Tracking Project sites show big increases in new activity for the week ending June 20.

State Activity Reports

Activity for the period after June 20 appears to be climbing to severe levels in the hardest-hit areas.

In Arizona, for example, hospitals were reporting that 88% of their intensive care unit beds were full, according to public health officials.

Texas Medical Center is reporting that patients with COVID-19 are filling 33% of its ICU beds and pushing its ICU to 95% of its normal capacity. The hospital is planning for the possibility that it may have to add extra ICU beds.

In Florida, COVID-19 has pushed use of adult ICU beds to 79% of the normal capacity.

— Read 7 Reasons the U.S. COVID-19 Picture Is So Fuzzyon ThinkAdvisor.

— Connect with ThinkAdvisor Life/Health on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.