In a memo sent by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on July 10, hospitals in the United States were ordered to start reporting COVID-19 patient information to a new centralized database set up by President Donald Trump's administration. And now, according to the New York Times, 34 current and former members of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee are warning that the requirement is burdensome for hospitals and will have "serious consequences on data integrity."
The Times reports that members expressed their concerns in a previously unpublished July 31 letter that reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg has obtained. In the letter, Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee members fear that the change had hospitals "scrambling to determine how to meet daily reporting requirements."
As past and present HICPAC members, we are troubled by the Administration's unexpected decision to divert COVID-19 data reporting from CDC to DHHS. NHSN is considered one of the most robust health care surveillance systems in the U.S., as it ensures national standardization while ensuring data security and integrity. CDC DHQP experts have devoted their careers to gathering and providing transparent and actionable data. The U.S. cannot lose their decades of expertise in interpreting and analyzing crucial data with the goal of developing interventions that improve the public's health. We strongly advise that the CDC's DHQP data experts be allowed to continue their important and trusted work in their mission to save lives and protect Americans from health threats.
The Times notes that in July, Trump's administration "ordered hospitals to send daily reports about virus cases to a central database in Washington — controlled by (Health Secretary Alex) Azar's department — instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such reports include information about current patients, the number of available beds and ventilators, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic. The order raised alarm that the data could be politicized or withheld from the public."
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