Hospitals, healthcare providers, and laboratories track COVID-19 cases and report COVID-19 case information to public health departments, which report detailed data to the CDC. The CDC makes this data publicly available and reports national COVID-19 data to the World Health Organization, as required under international health regulations. Accurately tracking the spread of COVID-19 helps federal, state, and local decision-makers allocate critical emergency response funding and develop public health guidance.  

COVID-19 remains a serious threat to public health, and there is evidence to support the current case count. In fact, experts agree that the number of COVID cases and deaths are probably undercounted because not everyone with COVID will have been tested and diagnosed.

The CDC’s data report also helps scientists and medical experts evaluate trends to identity groups most at risk. For example, data show that underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease greatly increases a person’s risk for life-threatening consequences from the infection. The high rate of chronic illness in the U.S. (6 in 10 adults have a chronic disease) has contributed to the high number of COVID-19 deaths, but it is important to remember that people with pre-existing conditions would likely have lived years longer if they had not been infected with COVID-19. For that reason, even with an underlying condition, the cause of these deaths is COVID-19.

Updated February 18, 2022