MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/CBS News) — The Trump administration is instructing hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in reporting their COVID-19 data to the government each day, effective Wednesday, and a Minnesota State Senator is urging health officials to ignore the instruction.
Sen. Matt Klein (DFL-Mendota Heights) says Minnesota hospitals and the Minnesota Department of Health should “disobey” the order from Trump’s administration.
“This data grab is the next step in what has been a steady political effort to suppress or cast doubt on the facts about COVID-19 in our country. As of today, 138,000 Americans have died of this illness. I’ve cared for some of those souls, and for many more–of all ages– who have suffered through long and damaging hospital stays from which they may never fully recover. It is staggering to realize that other peer countries, like Germany, have successfully reduced new deaths from COVID-19 to close to zero,” Klein said. “As a hospital physician and a proud member of the hospital care community in Minnesota, this is a moment for us to demonstrate our integrity, our courage, and our commitment to the truth.”
The Trump administration says that it’s changing the way data is reported because it’s trying to streamline the process, stating that there are “many separate” government entities asking for duplicate information. According to guidance issued by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the federal government will use the data to calculate how resources, treatment and supplies are allocated.
The daily data reporting it demands from hospitals will be “the only mechanism” used to make the government’s calculations. In the past it has made “one-time requests for data” for use in determining how treatments like Remdesivir should be distributed.
“The Trump administration continues to double down on smoke and mirrors fictions about COVID-19. I won’t amplify them by repeating them here, but these efforts will be vastly empowered by control over hospital data, which will allow Trump to spread the lie that nobody is suffering or dying from the pandemic,” Klein said.
In the document, HHS directs hospitals and health care providers to submit data about their handling of the pandemic every day — including information about patients, the number of beds and ventilators available, and staffing shortages — through a portal on the HHS website that was launched on April 10.
“The completeness, accuracy, and timeliness of the data will inform the COVID-19 Task Force decisions on capacity and resource needs to ensure a fully coordinated effort across America,” the document says.
But unlike the CDC’s site, the HHS database gathering coronavirus information will not be open to the public, raising concerns about transparency.
Immunology specialist Dr. Neeta Ogden said in an interview with CBSN Wednesday that the directive to bypass the CDC was a “startling mandate.”
“Will there be transparency? There is concern it’s not going to be public so there are a lot of issues here…how this administration has politicized science and undermined health experts,” she said, adding, “that is a big concern here as we try to reopen the country.”
HHS chief information officer Jose Arrieta says that HHS is looking at ways to make the data available to the public. He insists, however, that the CDC would have access to the data in the new system, and so would state and local health departments.
“No one is taking access or data away from CDC,” Arrieta said in a call with reporters Wednesday. “The access is the same today as it was yesterday.”
Arrieta also said that the new site was set up in consultation with the CDC.