The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will “no longer control” the coronavirus data collection system from hospitals across the nation, a spokesman for U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) said Tuesday night.
Michael R. Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement, it would be a faster system. He said that the CDC has about a one-week lag in reporting hospital data. Caputo was named to the position of HHS assistant secretary for public affairs three months ago, according to The New York Times.
“The 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,” Caputo said. “They will simply no longer control it,” he said.
The New York Times reported earlier Tuesday that the Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the CDC and send all COVID-19 patient information to a central database in Washington starting Wednesday, raising concerns from health experts that it will be politicized or withheld from the public.
The Times reported that the HHS database, that will now receive the new information, is not open to the public, and that could affect researchers, modelers and health officials who rely on CDC data to make projections and decisions.
Caputo told The Times that the CDC would still make data public.
In the statement to NBC News, Caputo said the CDC’s data gathering once worked well, but was inadequate today. “The President’s Coronavirus Task Force has urged improvements for months, but they just cannot keep up with this pandemic,” he said. “Today, the CDC still provides data from only 85 percent of hospitals; the President’s COVID response requires 100 percent to report.”
Critics have charged that President Donald Trump has sought to downplay the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and that he or members of his administration have encouraged states to reopen though the virus remains a threat.
Four former CDC directors or acting directors wrote an op-ed that appeared in The Washington Post Tuesday titled, “We ran the CDC. No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has.”
Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher and Richard Besser warned in the op-ed of “political leaders and others attempting to undermine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” They wrote that the Trump administration has cast public doubt on CDC recommendations.
They went on to say, “As the debate last week around reopening schools more safely showed, these repeated efforts to subvert sound public health guidelines introduce chaos and uncertainty while unnecessarily putting lives at risk.”
As of Tuesday, more than 3.4 million cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States, with more than 137,000 deaths linked to the disease, according NBC News’ count.
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