Texas’ public health agency spent big to update and roll out a new COVID-19 data reporting system, the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System, in May, but it’s still not widely adopted, according to a Sept. 24 report in the Texas Tribune.
1. The state public health agency initially asked for and received $3.5 million to upgrade its reporting system in 2019 and was still months from finishing the upgrade when the pandemic hit earlier this year. The agency will also receive federal funding to pay up to 18 more people to join its NEDSS team for two years, according to the report.
2. Many local public health agencies developed their own system for gathering and reporting information, and still have not switched to using the NEDSS, which couldn’t keep up with the 60,000-plus daily COVID-19 test results until August.
3. The NEDSS requires precise formatting for uploading data, and labs in Texas have struggled to meet the strict requirements. The state has hired a contractor to minimize issues with uploading the lab data.
4. Texas also paid Deloitte $1.1 million to develop Texas Health Trace for COVID-19 tracking, which it rolled out in May. At that time, some of the local health departments had created separate contact tracing initiatives and haven’t switched over or integrated efforts. In Austin, the health department uses a Salesforce tool to track COVID-19 cases.
5. Counties that can’t afford to use NEDSS or their own contractors have turned to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to track information. Some are manually copying information into the Health Trace system and others are sending faxes.
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