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Change of the Week: Let’s just not mention the rising number of COVID-19 cases…

Authored by EDGI’s Website Monitoring Team

Welcome! This blog is part of the EDGI Website Monitoring Team’s “Change of the Week” blog series. The purpose of this series is to highlight interesting changes we have observed in the language used on federal websites, or access to them. We want to share these changes to encourage public engagement with and discussion of their significance, as well as understanding of the ephemeral nature of website information. This week’s change is from earlier this summer and features a removal from the Coronavirus.gov “How It Spreads” FAQ webpage.

The information highlighted in red was removed between June 27, 2020 and June 30, 2020.

What happened? The question and answer to “Why are we seeing a rise in cases?” was deleted from the coronavirus.gov webpage for frequently asked questions about how the virus spreads (https://faq.coronavirus.gov/spread). The answer had read: 

“The number of cases of COVID-19 being reported in the United States is rising due to increased laboratory testing and reporting across the country. The growing number of cases in part reflects the rapid spread of COVID-19 as many U.S. states and territories experience community spread. More detailed and accurate data will allow us to better understand and track the size and scope of the outbreak and strengthen prevention and response efforts.”

Why we think this is interesting: There are three reasons this deletion caught our eye. First, the posted answer to this legitimate question was a political talking point that didn’t accurately portray the evidence. The answer merely read that the increase in cases was due to an increase in testing, as opposed to an actual increase in cases (because, you know, the virus was spreading throughout American communities). Second, the answer was removed in late June as the US experienced a second surge in new cases and passed 5,000,000 coronavirus cases in total. So, it seems like this question would be asked even more frequently, and should still be included in the FAQ page (with an accurate answer, no less). Third, with the removal of this answer, this FAQ page about how the virus spreads no longer includes any links to information about the number of cases recorded in this country (or globally). Perhaps someone realized the answer that had been provided was insufficient for the situation at hand, and didn’t want to call attention to it…