BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Public health data needs to be standardized and better publicized moving forward, a panel of experts said Friday during a Johns Hopkins University forum.

“If we face another crisis like the COVID pandemic, we are able to mobilize and have the data more quickly,” Archie Tse, a graphic designer for The New York Times, said. “Scientists as well as federal, state and local officials began asking us for data sets because there was no other source for it.”

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The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center has been relied upon heavily by public health experts and journalists since January 2020, shortly after the U.S. saw its first cases of COVID-19.

Dr. Lauren Gardner, a Johns Hopkins professor and creator of the university’s widely used COVID-19 dashboard, was named one of TIME Magazine’s Most Influential People of the Year. The magazine called her team’s global tracking map 2020’s “Go-To Data Source.”

Like her fellow “data pioneers,” Dr. Gardner voiced concerns about the current state of standardization and timely reporting when it comes to public health data.

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“We really need better standards for reporting all infectious and notifiable diseases,” Gardner said.

The global tracking map she created began with researchers manually curating data from multiple websites and news sources, Gardner said.

“Within a week, we had a million hits for the data on the dashboard,” she said. “Within a month, we had a billion.”

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Data is still the driving force behind many COVID-19 policy decisions. For instance, Baltimore’s indoor mask mandate remains in place because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the city has “substantial” transmission of COVID-19.

Paul Gessler