House lawmakers want reversal of Trump’s COVID-19 reporting changes, cite ‘politicization of public health’
House Democrats overseeing the coronavirus response called on the Trump Administration to reverse a decision that directed all hospitals to stop sending daily COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hospitals were instructed starting July 15 to bypass the CDC and send daily patient information to the Department of Health and Human Services through a system operated by a contractor, TeleTracking.
“We urge you to reverse this decision, restore this data collection role to the CDC, and take all necessary steps to ensure that essential data is collected and publicly reported free from political interference,” three House Democrats wrote in a letter to the Trump Administration. “We are concerned that this decision may represent yet another example of the Administration’s continuing politicization of public health during the coronavirus pandemic.”
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The letter was signed by Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis; Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform; and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.
The chairs point out that for more than a decade, hospitals have used a system known as the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) to report data on infectious disease hospitalizations to the CDC. But the Trump Administration directed hospitals this month to stop reporting data that way, but instead use TeleTraciking, a private company, to share data with HHS.
“This database does not appear to be more technologically advanced than CDC’s current platform,” the lawmakers wrote. “Like NHSN, the new database relies on manual data entry with inherent reporting delays, as opposed to the automatic reporting technology that experts have called for. Experts have also raised concerns that HHS does not have the same expertise as CDC in analyzing and reporting this type of critical data.”
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Trump Administration officials cited a lag time of at least a week in the CDC reporting system.
CDC Director Robert Redfield backed the decision and said the new process will streamline reporting and will provide rapid ways to update the type of data collected.
“No one is taking access or data away from CDC,” Redfield said Wednesday.
The CDC has been publishing daily data on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States.
The data will be used to inform decisions at the federal level, including the allocation of personal protective gear, the drug remdesivir, and other supplies, treatments and resources, according to a document on the Health and Human Services website.
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In an op-ed published Tuesday in the Washington Post, four former CDC directors – who served during both Republican and Democratic administrations – accused Trump and top coronavirus task force officials of politicizing scientific data released by the national public health institute.
“We cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence,” they wrote, claiming public health experts now “face two opponents: covid-19, but also political leaders and others attempting to undermine” the CDC.
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Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and the Associated Press contributed to his report.