Beginning Wednesday, July 15, all data regarding Coronavirus 2019 and affected patients in the United States will directly be sent to the Health and Human Services database, giving the Trump administration total access to the information.
Normally, COVID-19 patient data is delivered to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a public health institute. The CDC is responsible for making health information public, and guarantee total transparency between the people and the governing bodies.
After President Donald Trump’s order, hospitals nationwide made the switch.
The order took effect immediately. Charles Ornstein, a news correspondent from ProPublica, was the first one to know of the disappearance of information in one of the pages on the CDC website. The specific page tracked the status of hospital beds around the country, and was constantly updated with information as to how many of them were occupied with COVID-19 patients. But apparently, the information was no longer visible. Orstein tweeted with the news. That specific information about hospital beds provides a basis for hospitals in the country on their capacity to take in new patients, and also keeps track of the actual number of active cases and admitted patients.
CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network is the central source of information for healthcare nationwide. Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC Director, took away the network from being a recipient of new information from healthcare facilities nationwide to make way for just one source of data.
NHSN’s removal will have a huge impact on the flow and transparency of health updates to the public especially now that there is a dire need for that in the middle of a raging pandemic.
According to the assistant secretary for public affairs of the HHS, Michael Caputo, the new system will ensure the faster inflow of information compared to CDC’s one week delay. The task force for Covid-19 arranged by the president needs data from all hospitals in the country, while CDC only covers 85% of these hospitals. With the new system, 15% percent will be covered.
The secretary also clarified that CDC will still be a part of the response team, but will not play the central role anymore. This change is necessary for a smooth transmission of data and making it comprehensive. It will apparently not affect CDC negatively.
However, some health professionals are not convinced that the move was done with pure intentions. People are suspicious that Trump is once again doing it with a political motive. It is no surprise if Trump is deliberately trying to exclude CDC in the collaboration against the pandemic, since he has already tried to discredit the agency.
With a health crisis like this, health information must be in the hands of experts in the field. Now that the information is in the government’s possession, they are able to control the extent of what to release, compromising data transparency.