Feinstein, Whitehouse, Reed, Bill Would Undo Administration Attempt to Cut CDC Out of Coronavirus Data Collection
Jul 29 2020
Washington–Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to introduce legislation to reverse the Trump administration’s new directive forcing hospitals to withhold data about the coronavirus pandemic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The senators today introduced the Transparent Reporting and Use of Statistics in the Transmission of Coronavirus Data Collection, or the TRUST CDC Act. The TRUST CDC Act would require hospitals to report statistics about coronavirus cases, supply shortages and personnel directly to the CDC, which is uniquely qualified to handle such data.
“I’m very concerned by the administration’s move to change how coronavirus data is reported to the public,” said Feinstein. “The CDC’s system for publicly reporting COVID-19 data has been vital to our understanding of how this virus spreads, how our hospitals are coping with patients and which regions of the country are struggling. Science and data must always dictate our response to this pandemic, and making it harder to access information that hospitals report only hurts our recovery.”
“I can think of no good motivation for why the Trump administration would upend the CDC’s trusted system for reporting COVID-19 data in the middle of an accelerating pandemic that has already claimed the lives of more than 148,000 Americans,” said Whitehouse. “President Trump’s dystopian hostility toward facts and science has already wrought so much needless suffering. While this administration has tried to obscure its bungling of the pandemic, we need to make sure the American people have at their fingertips the most accurate and up-to-date numbers on which to base decisions about their own health and safety.”
The TRUST CDC Act requires the CDC to reinstate its website containing the COVID-19 data within a week of the bill’s passage and to keep the data portal updated moving forward.
On July 13, the White House Coronavirus Task Force ordered hospitals to cease sending data to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network within 48 hours. Hospitals were instructed to instead report data to a new system set up by the Department of Health and Human Services through a private contractor and were informed that vital supplies would be withheld from institutions not in compliance.
The CARES Act included $500 million for the CDC Data Modernization Initiative, to help the CDC update and scale up data collection. Rather than focus on that effort, the Trump administration instead upended the flow of data altogether. The administration has not provided an explanation for the shift.
The CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network had been the primary repository for public health data for fifteen years. Many states had built their own virus-tracking dashboards on the CDC’s data feed. Combined with testing delays and shortages, the sudden change in reporting mechanism exacerbates challenges in providing an accurate national picture of the pandemic.