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Hospitals Told to Send Covid-19 Data to Washington, Not CDC (2)

July 15, 2020, 5:23 PM

Hospitals have been told to redirect Covid 19-related data to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a change the government says will improve tracking but others fear could obscure how the pandemic is evolving.

“It became clear we needed a central way to make data available,” Jose Arrieta, HHS’s chief information officer, said on a press call on Wednesday. The goal is to better “allocate resources in real time.”

Given the broad range of elements that are collected, Arrieta said it’s impossible to manipulate the data.

The CDC was the one to propose the idea of changing how the information was gathered, CDC Director Robert Redfield said on the call. “No one is taking data or access away from the CDC,” he said.

The shift was announced in updated guidance posted on the HHS website late last week. Hospitals were told that as of Wednesday, they should stop sending statistics such as intensive-care capacity and bed utilization to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network and route them to the HHS database instead.

The Trump administration said the move is meant to make it easier for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to respond to the pandemic.

“The CDC’s old data-gathering operation once worked well monitoring hospital information across the country, but it’s an inadequate system today,” Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, said in a statement. The change was first reported by the New York Times.

‘Troubling’ Move

Some groups outside the government are concern that the change could make it harder for the public to find reliable information on what’s happening. One coronavirus tracking site, covidexitstrategy.org, lost access to data from the CDC on ICUs and beds, according to a statement on its website Wednesday.

“Our hope is this loss of critical public health information is temporary,” the site posted. “HHS is instituting a new process for collecting information from hospitals. The aggregate data from that system should be made public.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America issued a statement calling the change “troubling,” given the CDC has built up the expertise and infrastructure to handle and study such data.

“Placing medical data collection outside of the leadership of public health experts could severely weaken the quality and availability of data, add an additional burden to already overwhelmed hospitals and add a new challenge to the U.S. pandemic response,” IDSA President Thomas File Jr. said in the statement.

(Updates with material from press call. An earlier version corrected the attribution of CDC suggesting change.)

--With assistance from Josh Wingrove and Jeannie Baumann.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Olivia Raimonde in New York at oraimonde@bloomberg.net;
Shira Stein in Arlington at sstein51@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Timothy Annett at tannett@bloomberg.net

Heather Smith

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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