U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on July 14, 2020.
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The nation's governors urged the Trump administration to postpone its decision to move control of U.S. coronavirus hospital data from disease control and prevention centers.
The pushback occurs after the administration tacitly instructs hospitals to send data about Covid-19 patients, available medical equipment, and other information directly to the Ministry of Health and Human Services data portal in place of the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network. HHS officials said the CDC's data reporting infrastructure was out of date, causing a week-long delay in gathering information and hampering the U.S. response to the pandemic.
The CDC accessed the data on Tuesday evening, sharply criticized it on Thursday, and asked the agency to restore most of the data later in the day. However, the agency has not updated the information since Tuesday, saying it has no plans to keep it updated on the website in the future.
The move raised questions about data integrity and sparked a public outcry. Some researchers and former health officials say they fear that the CDC will be out of action for political reasons and that HHS may withhold data from the public. The governors' group released a statement Thursday calling on HHS to postpone its decision, while democratic lawmakers urged the Trump administration to reverse the change.
"The National Governors Association urges the Trump administration, on behalf of governors in all 55 states and territories, to postpone the changes to hospital reporting requirements announced on Monday by 30 days," the group said in a statement late Thursday. "In addition, the governors are asking the administration to make this information publicly available."
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, chairman of the National Governors Association and Republican, said in a tweet on Thursday that "the sudden changes are putting undue strain on state health departments and hospital systems that are already running at full capacity."
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said the state will move to a second stage opening on Friday, June 3, 2020, at 5 p.m. during a press conference at the State House in Baltimore, Maryland.
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On Friday, 46 Democratic senators, including former presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, and asked the government to reverse the change in policy.
"We are writing today to urge you to withdraw your confusing and harmful changes to 2019 Coronavirus Hospitals Reporting Requirements (COVID-19)," wrote the Senators. "The mismanagement by the Trump administration of COVID-19 response and the refusal to respect public health expertise continues to put the country in a dangerous situation."
The senators added that the change in the guidelines increases the burden on hospitals, compromises data for states and reduces transparency for the public.
"The American people deserve to know the true extent of the pandemic, and that can only happen if public health experts help collect and report data accurately and transparently," wrote the senators. "With the abrupt change in the reporting process due to the obligation of hospitals to report to HHS and the circumvention of the CDC, we fear that the data collected and questions about the accuracy of this data will be disrupted."
HHS officials have repeatedly said the agency "is committed to transparency" and CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said earlier this week that the agency continued to have access to the data. However, the CDC said it will no longer update the portion of its website that shows some of the data, which disrupts the flow of information to the public and third-party researchers. It remains unclear when and how much data will be available in the future and where this data will be published.
"We will publish data from via HHS Protect everything Hospitals report whether they report directly through TeleTracking or through their states or state hospital associations, "a HHS spokeswoman told CNBC, adding that the agency is working with the CDC to generate new dashboards that are expected to be" in a few days " "Due to this change, the data will not be hosted on the same website, but will still be available on CDC.gov."
Despite the policy change, the Pennsylvania Department of Health instructed hospitals to continue reporting data directly to the state Department of Health in addition to HHS, spokesman Nate Wardle told CNBC.
"Hospitals continue to report data to the department, as has been the case for several months, and we hope that other reporting requirements that the federal government will require of them will not affect their ability to provide health care." Needs or further changes and modifications to the data collection that the department is making, "he said in a statement.
On Thursday, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs in Idaho, Niki Forbing-Orr, said that the "policy was adopted abruptly" and that it is "a major challenge" for the state in relation to data tracking.
"We are reviewing the details of the new process to determine exactly how it will affect our ability to view and report the information on coronavirus.idaho.gov to the public, but there will certainly be a short circuit. " Impact on our awareness of the number of people in hospitals, intensive care units, and respirators, "she told CNBC.