The federal government Saturday unveiled the first detailed national system for tracking the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
The new COVIDView system will provide weekly updates aimed at monitoring the outbreak across the country, based on the results of tests for the virus, people seeking care for flu-like systems and pneumonia and those diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
"I think it's really important," Lynnette Brammer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who's leading the effort, told NPR in an interview. "Information is vitally important. It allows us to see where we're going."
The shortage of testing for the coronavirus has been a major problem hindering the nation's ability to understand the scope of the pandemic in the United States and develop the most effective counter measures, many public health experts say.
The absence of a coordinated national tracking system forced states to scramble to develop their own approaches, drawing from data routinely gathered from doctors and hospitals to monitor the flu.
The development of the CDC was welcomed by many public health experts.
"I think the information will be valuable," says Marc Lipsitch, a leading epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
But Lipsitch and others criticized the agency for failing to develop a system like this much sooner and said the system still falls far short of what's needed. For example, information is really needed on a daily basis, several said.
"We're in the middle of the greatest pandemic in a century," says Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. "So I think what they're doing is fine and it is helpful. But we need something much more than that. The pandemic doesn't take the weekend off."