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COVID Tracking Shifts Upstairs to HHS after CDC’s Failure

COVID Tracking Shifts Upstairs to HHS after CDC’s Failure

In a public acknowledgement of the CDC’s failure to collect and report accurate information, the Trump Administration has directed hospitals to submit all relevant information to the HHS. 

“The CDC’s old data-gathering operation once worked well monitoring hospital information across the country, but it’s an inadequate system today,” explains HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo. “The president’s coronavirus task force has urged improvements for months, but they just cannot keep up with this pandemic.”

According to Caputo, the CDC collects data from roughly 85% of hospitals and has a one-week lag in reporting that data. President Trump’s COVID response requires data from 100% of hospitals in real time.

“The key point is the HHS and the White House need this data quickly to coordinate a whole host of decisions that are not made at the CDC level,” explains Dr. Bill Winkenwerder, who served under President George W. Bush as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. “The one-week lag that was described is a long time. Every day counts, so I can understand why they need and want that information.”

The new system will make it easier for hospitals to report accurate information (primarily because they won’t be receiving redundant requests from multiple agencies), but it could make it harder for universities and researchers tracking the pandemic to access data.

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb criticized the policy change, arguing that it would have made more sense to improve the CDC’s methods than to “re-create the wheel.” Others see the change as an attack against the CDC that is in line with President Trump’s broad distrust of public health officials.

On Monday, the state of California reported a record-breaking 11,500 new cases that pushes the state’s total to 400,000 (almost as high as New York).

On Tuesday, the CDC released findings that suggest the actual number of COVID cases in the US could be up to 13x higher than reported rates. In total, the US has reported 4,024,462 cases. 

Author’s Note: The data collection problem with COVID is massive and unwieldy. We are in unknown territory and receiving reports that cannot be verified in real time. Plus, we can only get data based on the amount of testing. The number of reported deaths should be more accurate, but even that metric is skewed because it is often unclear whether a patient died from COVID, died with COVID, or died after experiencing COVID symptoms but never got tested. 

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