Instead of sending data on coronavirus patients to the National Health Care Safety Network Site, which has tracked the outbreak since it officially began in the US earlier this year, the nation’s 25,000 medical facilities will instead report to a singular database in Washington.
In order to gain access to that critical data on a daily basis, the administration has urged governors to call in the US National Guard, the Washington Post reported.
Hospitals will be forced to bypass the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and send all data on patients infected with Covid-19 to the Trump administration under a new order beginning on Wednesday.
The federal government confirmed the change in policy amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo saying in a statement the new process would lead to “faster” reporting of hospital data across the country.
Infectious disease experts quickly spoke out against the developments, including Dr Thomas File, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, who said in a statement: “Placing medical data collection outside of the leadership of public health experts could severely weaken the quality and availability of data, add an additional burden to already overwhelmed hospitals and add a new challenge to the US pandemic response.”
The news followed weeks of contentious debate on Capitol Hill over the administration’s response to the pandemic, as the White House urged schools to resume in the fall for in-person classes and called for states to begin reopening, despite a spike in new cases from coast to coast. Mr Trump has reportedly urged officials to slow down testing for the novel virus in the US, insisting inaccurately that more testing leads to more cases.
The president said himself in late June at a rally: “I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please.’”
He later said that he was not kidding, telling reporters: “I don’t kid, let me just tell you, let me make it clear … by having more tests, we have more cases.”
Nearly 3.48 million Americans have contracted Covid-19 and a reported 138,000 people in the US have died as a result of the pandemic, according to the latest tracking data published by Johns Hopkins University.
Under the Trump administration’s latest orders, crucial data on the number of Covid-19 patients in US hospitals and the amount of ventilators available in medical facilities will be sent to HHS on a daily basis.
According to new guidelines posted on the HHS website, the data “will be used to inform decisions at the federal level, such as allocation of supplies, treatments, and other resources”.
The data reported to HHS reportedly may not be immediately made available to the public, potentially complicating scientific research surrounding the spread of Covid-19 infections. However, Mr Caputo told the New York Times that data surrounding the pandemic would still be made available through the CDC.
“Given our track record of being cooperative to evolving data requests, it’s perplexing that the possibility of using the National Guard has been suggested,” Rick Pollack, president of the American Hospital Association, told the Washington Post. “It makes no sense. Certainly the expertise of the National Guard can be used in a more productive way.”