In the midst of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the Coalition for the Life Sciences (CLS) is deeply concerned with a sudden directive from the Trump administration that appears to compromise the central role of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the daily collection, analysis and dissemination of data regarding COVID-19 testing, hospital capacity and patient flow. The CDC has long been seen as the gold standard for public health, and has proven expertise for managing and analyzing this information
On July 10, the Department of Health and Human Services directed hospitals to immediately shift submission of their COVID-19 information, including the numbers and age ranges of COVID-19 patients treated in each facility, available beds and ventilators, to data systems developed by two private contractors, and no longer to the CDC. This new requirement to bypass CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network is particularly troubling, because the new reporting protocols preclude access to the data, previously provided by CDC, for the public, for researchers, who could advance our understanding of the determinants of viral infection and transmission, and for media, which could inform the public.
Even if current efforts succeed in convincing HHS to make its data available to CDC and the public, the appearance will persist that the rationale for centralizing reporting to an Executive Branch department is political. Direct CDC access to the primary data, free of any suggestion of manipulation, will go far towards enhancing the public’s confidence in the integrity of their leaders in this time of crisis. CLS urges that CDC be returned to its role as the primary national center for COVID-19 data.