Data is Central in Biden’s COVID-19 Strategy

Published: January 27, 2021

Federal Market AnalysisAdministration TransitionBig DataCoronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

The Biden administration leans on the expansion and improvement of federal data capabilities within its new COVID-19 strategy.

Key Takeaways:

  • Biden’s new COVID-19 strategy emphasizes data as the premises to gaining public trust of federal response efforts, supporting a vaccination campaign, and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country.
  • Data’s role in the new strategy and subsequent COVID-19 executive orders is likely to align with some of the themes expected in the forthcoming 2021 Action Plan under the Federal Data Strategy.  

The new Biden administration released a COVID-19 national strategy within a day of taking office, making good on campaign promises to prioritize federal response of the health crisis. The 200-page strategy provides a roadmap to navigate the global pandemic in the U.S., recognizing data’s critical role in the ongoing pandemic.

In fact, the Biden administration focuses its COVID-19 strategy and related executive orders on open data practices, effective collection and analysis of health data, and interoperability of public health data systems.

Three of the strategy’s seven goals provide details into data’s role to guide COVID-19 public health response, calling for improved collection, interoperability, analysis and dissemination, and new technical solutions across federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments:

  • Goal 1: Restore trust with the American people
    • Uses data as the primary form of public communication to relay the state of the pandemic and evidence-based policymaking
    • Directs the CDC to maintain a public dashboard tracking COVID-19 cases at the county level
    • Improves federal agencies’ capabilities to collect, analyze and share COVID-19 data through actionized executive order
    • Provides federal support to state and local governments with data personnel, technology and other resources
  • Goal 2: Mount a safe, effective, comprehensive vaccination campaign
    • Directs the CDC an FDA to expand existing systems and collaborate in providing vaccine safety and value metrics to the public
  • Goal 3: Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, treatment, data, workforce, and clear public health standards
    • Calls for strengthened essential data systems, including new solutions for workforce mobilization and vaccination appointment scheduling
    • Directs applicable agencies to “collect, produce, share, analyze, and collaborate with respect to data supportive of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts”
    • Pushes for the identification of common federal metrics for tracking virus testing, contact tracing, hospital capacity and treatment
    • Assists states and localities that continue to struggle with antiquated data systems, particularly those with challenges in connecting with testing laboratories and public health agencies

Consistent with the strategy, the new administration issued Executive Order (EO), “Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats,” to set the wheels in motion on data’s role within the overall guidance. Specifically, the EO holds relevant agencies accountable with collaborating with the newly appointed COVID-19 Response Coordinator.  Moreover, the EO directs the Director of OSTP, CTO and COVID-19 Response Coordinator to review the federal government’s existing approaches to open data, review the effectiveness of current public health data systems, and review opportunities to hire IT personnel to collect and analyze public health data.

Another recent COVID-19 EO will also rely on data-driven systems to coordinate federal government efforts to the pandemic, ordering a comprehensive inventory of response supplies, and accounts of agency actions, contracts and investments of response supplies under the “Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain” EO.

Focus on intergovernmental data collaboration and open data forums will likely be themes within the upcoming 2021 Action Plan under the Federal Data Strategy (not released as of date of publish). While last year’s action plan set the groundwork for, among other things, establishing the CDO Council and directing agencies to identify opportunities to increase data opportunities, skills and staff, the upcoming action plan is sure to reflect gaps and lessons learned from the pandemic.