Public health experts are pushing back against the Trump administration’s move to bypass the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on data reporting as the coronavirus continues to rage.
Many have taken to Twitter in the wake of recent developments regarding the availability of information on hospitalizations.
The CDC dashboard that previously offered detailed information on hospitalizations and ICU capacity now displays a notification that indicates the content is no longer available.
I had hoped it was a glitch, but no…The @CDCgov hospital capacity dashboard has gone dark. @CDCDirector has said CDC still has access to the data but apparently the public no longer does. pic.twitter.com/FyRt7YHvKc— Charles Ornstein (@charlesornstein) July 16, 2020
The White House recently said that hospitals are to report their information regarding coronavirus to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), rather than to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network. It took effect on Wednesday.
Now, doctors and public health experts are speaking out to raise awareness about the danger associated with the Trump administration’s attempt to bypass the infectious disease experts.
Dr. Thomas File Jr. — who serves as president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (ISDA) — released a statement raising concerns about the impact of changes in the way data is collected.
“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,” File said.
Dr. Howard Koh, former Department of Health and Hospitals (HHS) assistant secretary for health under the Obama administration, also weighed in with questions about the reason for the need to overhaul the entire database instead of implementing small improvements.
He also tweeted, “Updating health data systems is important for [COVID-19] response, but the dramatic and disruptive nature of this announcement raises critical questions about timing, transparency, accessibility, accountability.”
Updating health data systems is important for #COVID response, but the dramatic and disruptive nature of this announcement raises critical questions about timing, transparency, accessibility, accountability https://t.co/xQCUh323Mi— Dr. Howard K. Koh (@DrHowardKoh) July 15, 2020
ER doctor and frontline healthcare worker Dr. Rob Davidson also raised concerns bout transparency.
He tweeted, “This is an outrage that must get more attention: [Donald Trump] is now stopping the CDC from providing the public with data re: how many Americans are being hospitalized due to [COVID 19], in an effort to downplay the crisis. As a doctor, this is horrifying [and] will cost lives.”
🚨This is an outrage that must get more attention: @realdonaldtrump is now stopping the CDC from providing the public with data re: how many Americans are being hospitalized due to #COVID19, in an effort to downplay the crisis. As a doctor, this is horrifying & will cost lives. pic.twitter.com/GWr8wjG9zl— Dr. Rob Davidson (@DrRobDavidson) July 16, 2020
See other reactions below:
It is time for Fauci, the CDC, Doctors and the Scientific Community to turn their backs on this mentally ill man and tell US the truth. Before another 135,000 die, do what the GOP cowards refused to do, Convict this man of Violating his Oath to keep us safe.— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) July 15, 2020
It's not unusual for CDC guidelines to be changed or amended during a clearance process that moves through multiple agencies and the White House. But it is extraordinary—unprecedented—for guidelines to be undermined after their release. https://t.co/jCG92O2toN— Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrTomFrieden) July 14, 2020
Immediately after the White House takes control of data collection from hospitals and cuts out the CDC, we have a data blackout on hospital capacity.— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) July 16, 2020
This is the kind of authoritarian suppression of data we expect from China, not the US.
What’s next, death count distortions? https://t.co/uBEhd9XpOg
Trump moves from lying about data to seizing the data by ordering that CDC be excluded from receiving Covid-19 data & considers using the National Guard to collect data from hospitals – these are the actions of an authoritarian regime.@forbes https://t.co/MGBtmRMOcC— Shanlon Wu (@shanlonwu) July 14, 2020
In wake of growing concern about transparency, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) called on the Trump administration to make an effort to justify the order, as she noted how it could lead to yet another set back for the United States.
“The Trump Administration is going to have to give a full justification for this, because until they do, it’s hard to see how this step won’t further sideline public health experts and obscure the severity of this crisis,” Murray tweeted.
The Trump Administration is going to have to give a full justification for this, because until they do, it’s hard to see how this step won’t further sideline public health experts and obscure the severity of this crisis. https://t.co/Ff03CWYRPF— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) July 15, 2020
Although the White House has yet to release a statement with full justification for the order, Michael Caputo — Department of Health and Hospitals (HHS) assistant secretary for public affairs — insists the CDC’s system is “inadequate” for today’s pandemic.
“The CDC’s old data-gathering operation once worked well monitoring hospital information across the country,” Caputo said, adding, “But it’s an inadequate system today.”
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield also insisted access to data would not be “taken away.”
“No one is taking access or data away from CDC,” Redfield said, later adding, “All elements of our public health system are being stretched right now, and streamlining the hospital reporting allows the NHSN to concentrate its COVID-19 activities on this high priority area of protecting the vulnerable in our nursing homes.”
As of Thursday afternoon, there are more than 3.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as the death toll is over 140,000.