Finkenauer introduces bill to ensure accurate and transparent COVID-19 data

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) introduced the COVID-19 Data Accuracy Act on Tuesday to help ensure the completeness and accuracy of COVID-19 data.

Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike, this bill recognizes the critical importance of having high-quality, precise data available to make public health policy decisions and allocate response resources efficiently and adequately. 

“We need the best COVID-19 data possible to assess our community’s needs and understand how much this virus has spread,” Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer said. “This means making sure the way we’re collecting data gives us correct, accessible, and transparent results, and it means having a process to quickly and publicly resolve data errors.” 

“This virus brings so many unknowns into our lives, but my bill will make sure we’re not leaving the accuracy of our data up to chance,” Finkenauer said.

Finkenauer was joined in introducing the legislation by U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Cindy Axne (IA-03).

The COVID-19 Data Accuracy Act would prescribe a process by which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will certify the correction of data errors that may arise at the federal, state or local level and ensure the public disclosure of these errors as well as when and how they are corrected. The new process would also allow whistleblowers to report errors in COVID-19 data for federal officials to investigate and resolve.

The bill would also require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate COVID-19 data collection issues and develop recommended improvements for HHS to implement.

“Policymakers, public health officials and Iowans want to make data-driven decisions to help control the spread of COVID-19,” Finkenauer said. “When we’re confident in our data, we can be confident we have the information we need to make public health policy, secure appropriate resources for our communities, and ultimately stop the spread of the virus.” 

“Knowing where COVID-19 cases are happening and being able to see where an outbreak may be occurring is important knowledge for medical professionals trying to help deal with this pandemic,” Loebsack said. “Having these data is important to making proper public policy decisions and is used to guide where resources are most needed. I am pleased to work with Reps. Finkenauer and Axne to introduce this legislation that will ensure data is accurately reported and when errors are found they can easily and publicly be fixed.”

“Accurate and transparent reporting of data is the foundation on which all successful public health decisions are made. Right now, Iowa is facing the worst surge in COVID-19 cases since this pandemic began more than 8 months ago – with hospitals at risk of being overrun and record outbreaks recorded at our long-term care facilities – meaning any error or omission in Iowa’s data could put more lives at risk,” Axne said. “In order for our public health experts and elected officials to make informed decisions about how best to protect Iowans from this disease, we need to ensure that health data is accurate and accessible – and this legislation would allow us to craft better data practices to prevent future errors.” 

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