Reactions mixed to HHS' new protocol for hospitals reporting COVID-19 data

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Hospitals will begin reporting their daily coronavirus information including patients, bed counts and available supplies to HHS on July 15 instead of the CDC. 

The Trump administration on July 10 changed the protocols for coronavirus data reporting, which in March originally required hospital administrators to send data on coronavirus testing, capacity and patient flow to the CDC on a daily basis. The switch in data collection responsibility follows public health experts' concerns that the administration is undermining disease control centers and politicizing science, Nicole Lurie, MD, told The New York Times.

"Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust," said Dr. Lurie, who served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response under former President Barack Obama. "It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like CDC to do its basic job."

HHS said that taking control of the daily reports will help the federal government better monitor resource usage and allocate supplies including personal protective equipment and antiviral drug remdesivir during the pandemic. White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, assembled a group of government and hospital officials to coordinate the new reporting process several weeks ago after learning hospitals were not properly reporting their data, according to the report.

Some hospital officials told the Times they support the change because it will relieve them of having to respond to data requests from multiple federal agencies. However, news of the data reporting shift shocked the CDC, according to two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, because the agency has traditionally overseen the gathering of public health data.

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., told the Times that the CDC is the proper agency to handle health data reporting and if its systems have flaws, they should be fixed. "Only the CDC has the expertise to collect data," said Ms. Shalala, who served as health secretary under former President Bill Clinton. "I think any move to take responsibility away from the people who have the expertise is politicizing."

A spokesman for the disease control centers referred the Times' questions to HHS, which did not respond to a request for comment.

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