Critical Data Missing In COVID-19 Reporting

F.J. Thomas

Atlanta, GA ( – With all the data churning that is going on in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are key pieces of information missing in the reporting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reviewing. While the latest reporting totals from the CDC reflects cases and death totals, it makes no mention of the breakdown by sex. In fact, according to a March report from the Lancet, there appears to be no governmental global organization that is actively analyzing how this pandemic effects the sexes. In fact, in a recent reactionary request to the hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to report their lab results weekly, the request was made that the information be reported without personal identifying information, most likely due to HIPPA regulations.

Global Health 50/50, an independent initiative working to bring about global equality for women, started gathering a list of the cases by gender from publically available sources. The work is being done on a volunteer basis. The reporting is still a work in progress, and often there is a lag time between current cases and those reported in the Global Health 50/50 list. Additionally, there are varying definitions of cases per country, and all data may not be included depending on what information was available at the time. While it is a concerted effort, there’s a long ways to go before the data can be fully trusted and utilized.

The initial data reported so far suggests that the death rate of COVID-19 is higher for men than it is for women. However, at this point there is no indication of whether or not these differences are due to behavioral tendencies such as smoking and drinking, which are higher in men and affect the lungs and immune system directly, or due to co-morbidities such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease, which are also higher in men.

Additionally, if the differences are due to women’s roles in the countries reported to date, the report is only giving a partial picture. In many of the countries reported thus far, women have more limited work and economic opportunities, which also limits their exposure. What may be true for countries where more women have traditional roles may not be true for countries and industries that have a large female workforce. Considering that women make up 91 percent of nurses in the United States, the current reporting available potentially could underestimate the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare workers.

Ebola is a good example of how roles can be a key factor in a pandemic. According to one study on the Ebola virus, women made up 55 percent of the cases. Of the 8 people in the study that died, 4 of them were women and 3 of those 4 were healthcare workers.

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