Coronavirus data surge freezes Washington state's disease-reporting system

A surge in COVID-19 case data has overwhelmed the Washington Department of Health's disease-reporting system, bringing it to a halt, officials told The Seattle Times March 31.

As of March 31, the system was showing data from lab results reported March 28. This issue may leave officials planning and implementing the state's response to the pandemic in the dark about the latest information on the virus' spread.

"Our team is on it. It's a top priority for us, and we understand the importance of having the data both for our use and for transparency to the public," John Wiesman, Washington state's health secretary, told The Seattle Times.

The lag in data has not adversely affected public health planning during the pandemic, officials said.

The state's reporting of COVID-19 cases has also been affected by incomplete and inaccurate data in the system. Officials say that the system has been inundated due to the state ramping up its testing in the last month. Twenty-one laboratories in Washington are now testing COVID-19 samples.

The state's disease-reporting system was set up to only take positive results, "say from someone who got E. coli in one county, or a case of measles in another," said Mr. Wiesman.

But during the pandemic, the system is importing negative test results as well.

The state is working with software vendor Conduent to allow the system to separate positive and negative testing data, Jennifer McNamara, the health department's CIO, told The Seattle Times.

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