Public health expert says new CDC data shows need for hospital-acquired COVID-19 reporting

Roughly nine weeks' of previously unpublished federal data provided to the Wall Street Journal shows an average of 120 patients a day contracted the new coronavirus inside U.S. hospitals. 

The figure comes from data reported by half of U.S. hospitals to the CDC between May 14 and July 14, after which data is unavailable because the government changed its data collection system and dropped the question about new cases of hospital-acquired COVID-19. 

In that timeframe, more than 7,400 patients likely caught COVID-19 in hospitals where they sought care for other conditions. The CDC data didn’t track infections among hospital staff.

Ashish Jha, MD, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health in Providence, R.I., told the WSJ the data shows the need for federal authorities to revive reporting requirements for new cases of hospital-acquired COVID-19. "We need to know this," he said. 

The WSJ also points out that the CDC data doesn’t specify the location of reporting hospitals, and the pandemic has hit different regions of the U.S. at different times. 

A separate, recently published analysis from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston showed that over a 12-week period, two patients contracted COVID-19 inside the hospital. 

Researchers credit the hospital's rigorous infection control measures for the low COVID-19 transmission, which hospital leaders told WSJ are critical to ensure patients do not avoid medical appointments and care moving forward. "That is the bigger public health risk," Meghan Baker, MD, epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told WSJ.

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