Orders Hospitals to Bypass CDC and Reroute to HHS
Experts are raising concerns after the Trump administration ordered a radical overnight switch, mandating all hospitals immediately stop reporting coronavirus patient data to the independent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and start sending that information to the already politicized Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Adding to fears the Trump administration may block the data from those who need access to it most, may corrupt the information, or may, as it regularly does, politicize the information, experts also note the order to switch where data is reported to comes with a severe threat.
Hospitals and states that do not comply with this change will lose access to one of the very few, and therefore vital COVID-19 drugs: Remdesivir, according to the thinly-veiled threat in the new directive.
“This data will be used to inform decisions at the federal level, such as allocation of supplies, treatments, and other resources,” the 13-page directive reads. “We will no longer be sending out one-time requests for data to aid in the distribution of Remdesivir or any other treatments or supplies. This daily reporting is the only mechanism used for the distribution calculations, and the daily is needed daily to ensure accurate calculations.”
Not only is the change immediate and highly-suspect, earlier this week the Trump administration had considered asking governors to activate the National Guard to assist with collection and reporting of the data, an unprecedented move.
The Nobel Peace Prize winning NGO Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a strong warning on the change, saying public health experts “fear this will enable the administration to distort and politicize scientific data.”
“Requiring medical facilities to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when reporting coronavirus patient data could allow the Trump administration to manipulate and misrepresent data in a way that fits a political agenda rather than science,” PHR’s senior medical advisor Ranit Mishori, MD, MHS, said in a statement. “This administration has shown again and again that its coronavirus crisis response and public statements about the severity of the pandemic in the United States have not been grounded in science and medical evidence. The politicization of science has contributed to an overall failure to respond quickly and adequately to the pandemic, leading to devastating cases of illness and death.”
Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Peter Chin-Hongis a “medical educator who specializes in treating infectious diseases, particularly infections that develop in patients who have suppressed immune systems. He issued this dire warning:
Knot in my stomach. Hospital #COVID19 data will now be sent to Trump admin-NOT #CDC. What this means:1)impacts what data public sees 2)affects nation’s views on disparities, school reopenings, remdesivir allocation & more 3)#standupforscience https://t.co/wgCSNugKie
— Peter Chin-Hong MD (@PCH_SF) July 15, 2020
Atrium Health’s Chief Strategy Officer Rasu B. Shrestha, MD, MBA, an informatician and pragmatic futurist warns, “Now’s NOT the time to politicize the CDC!”
former CDC acting director Dr. Richard Besser told CNN, “Given how political the response has been to date, it’s a step backwards to have these data going directly to HHS in Washington.”
He calls it “another example of CDC being sidelined. Not only should the data be coming to CDC, but CDC should be talking to the public through the media every day.”
Former federal prosecutor and former Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, Shanlon Wu, sums up, saying:
“Trump moves from lying about data to seizing the data by ordering that CDC be excluded from receiving Covid-19 data & considers using the National Guard to collect data from hospitals – these are the actions of an authoritarian regime.”
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