UPDATE: Trump Orders COVID Data to Go Straight to White House, Bypassing CDC

This article was updated on August 6, 2020.

According to NPR, the new system Trump put into place with assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reroute CDC information allegedly contains errors and inconsistencies. Many medical facilities have reported difficulties sending coronavirus related information to HHS.

The delays in data reports leave the exact numbers of available hospital beds, ventilators, and other vital equipment for treating COVID-19 somewhat unknown, relative to when new reports are published.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said, “CDC then and now continues to have access to all data, does all the data analytics, so there’s no restriction of any of the data.”

Trump claimed that the change was necessary, calling the CDC’s system too slow. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the existing CDC platform was only reporting data from half of the hospital networks across the nation.

But the current hospital capacity data from HHS was last updated July 23, leaving more than one week of unknown changes in the data until the next update arrives. Things are not looking up to date and health experts are worried that this switch of funneling coronavirus information is leading to more substantial problems with America’s fight against COVID-19

Trump decides to bypass the CDC in July

In the spirit of cancelling things, President Trump demanded in July that he be given all hospital data on coronavirus patients first instead of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This rerouting of information is causing fear that Americans will be less informed of COVID-19 updates. 

Why the change? 

Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the CDC, explained the switch in communication. He said, a “new faster and complete data system is what our nation needs to defeat the coronavirus and the CDC, an operating division of HHS, will certainly participate in this streamlined all-of-government response. They will simply no longer control it.”

“The CDC’s old hospital data gathering operation once worked well monitoring hospital information across the country, but it’s an inadequate system today,” Caputo said.

Transparency in question

The move could make data less transparent to the public at a time when the administration is downplaying the spread of the pandemic, and threatens to undermine public confidence that medical data is being presented free of political interference.

This fear of silencing our country’s healthcare experts, like the CDC and the WHO, is intertwined with the President’s demand to reopen schools this fall. Many fear that the Trump administration has the ability to withhold public knowledge regarding COVID-19 data that public health professionals would make public. 

In an attempt to combat the President’s decision, four former CDC directors warned against what they called a “tragic indictment” of the CDC’s efforts as President Donald Trump and top coronavirus task force officials seek to reopen the nation’s schools amid the raging pandemic. Trump has said he will “pressure” governors to reopen schools.

“Unfortunately, their sound science is being challenged with partisan potshots, sowing confusion and mistrust at a time when the American people need leadership, expertise and clarity. These efforts have even fueled a backlash against public health officials across the country: Public servants have been harassed, threatened and forced to resign when we need them most. This is unconscionable and dangerous,” the former CDC officials wrote.

Backlash

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the change is “going to lead to more opaqueness” about coronavirus data

“What logic does this have, other than to take away the data from the epidemiologists that are the best in the world at looking at this data, making sense of it, translating it for people, versus giving it to HHS,” he asked on CNN on Wednesday, July 15. 

Former CDC director Dr. Richard Besser described rerouting hospital data as a “step backwards” for the country.

“It’s another example of CDC being sidelined. Not only should the data be coming to CDC, but CDC should be talking to the public through the media every day,” Besser said.

He worried that the data going directly to HHS could “be further politicized, and that’s the last thing you want.” Besser added, “One of the nice things about CDC being in Atlanta — being away from Washington — is that we’re able to avoid a lot of political pressure that you get in when you’re in DC,” he said. 

Numbers continue to rise

The Trump administration continues to struggle with finding leverage in the coronavirus pandemic, which had claimed 136,000 American lives as of Wednesday, July 15 and has now grown to over 158,000 Americans lives as of Thursday, August 6. The race for a cure has shifted into a political debate in moves that are increasingly being seen as political. 

We want to know what you think. Should the CDC continue to have reign over America’s public health or should the President? Let us know on Facebook.


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