Discussing Recent Changes in the Availability to Covid-19 Data
Authored by Ayesha Rajan, Research Analyst at Altheia Predictive Health
Just as we were beginning our weekends last week, our news channels were dominated by headlines detailing the story of how the Trump Administration has stripped the CDC of its access to Covid-19 data. Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic the CDC has been an integral part of getting key information out to the public through press conferences, visual education material, data reports and more. For those reasons, this development is incredibly surprising and begs the question of who the public should look to for trusted information regarding the spread of and how to protect themselves from Covid-19. This also brings up several issues for hospitals and resource allocation, as well as many other issues for organizations relying on accurate data to make decisions.
The first question that you might ask in this regard is – how does the CDC get its Covid-19 data? The CDC was getting its data by hospitals directly sending them information. This move by the Trump Administration tells hospitals to bypass the CDC in data reporting and report information regarding all Covid-19 cases, as well as that hospitals available number of beds and ventilators, to the Department of Health and Human Services. This is incredibly problematic because many of the available models and projections made for Covid-19 have come from private and university researchers who rely on the fact that the CDC makes its data public, but the Department of Health and Human Services does not operate the same way. In fact, this has already impacted many researchers who claim that their models and prediction algorithms began underperforming when access to data was quietly taken away. This begs the question of whether or not who this data will be made available to and if this is simply a method to politicize the information the public is being given regarding Covid-19. Many scientists, physicians and leaders in the field have “long expressed concerns that the Trump administration is politicizing science and undermining its health experts [and feel that] the data collection shift reinforced those fears.”
Michael Caputo, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, has said that his department and the CDC would share data so that it remained available to the public, however, many states, including Kansas and Missouri, have not received timely access to relevant data, with some hospitals saying they’ve experienced up to a week of lag time in receiving requested data. As hospitals across the nations are seeing new peaks in their Covid-19 cases, hospital workers have also said that this change in reporting of data is highly disruptive to their usual processes and taking time away from more pressing matters. Some workers also express a sense of frustration knowing that this increase in workload will only lead to less access to data in the future. Additionally, the Trump Administration has repeatedly made claims that the way testing is reported in the United States is leading to confusing reports and information regarding Covid-19. This brings up serious concerns for many physicians who worry that this thought process will lead to false or inaccurate reporting of Covid-19 cases in an attempt to support the goals of the current Administration.
The recent changes in the reporting of Covid-19 cases and relevant information has been widely criticized by leading officials, physicians and the general public as an unnecessary stunt by the Trump Administration. Most have concurred that the decision puts many people at risk by complicating a process that has been in place throughout the pandemic and has supported the public access to and research of Covid-19 data. As we move forward in the battle against Covid-19, we must analyze how we can better access reliable data and provide hospitals with the tools necessary to prepare and succeed in their endeavors.
 Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. “Trump Administration Strips C.D.C. of Control of Coronavirus Data.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 July 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/trump-cdc-coronavirus.html.