The U.S. federal government is seemingly calling for a do-over on how they want hospitals to report new covid-19 cases.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government will once again require hospitals to report their data to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instead of directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The move comes only a month after the new policy was implemented, following criticism by public health experts and others about the switch and continued struggles by the government in collecting and making this hospitalisation data publicly available.
According to the WSJ, Deborah Birx, the White House’s response coordinator on the Coronavirus Task Force, recently told hospital executives and other government officials in Arkansas this week that the data collection process would be returning to the CDC soon. Birx is said to have framed the initial decision to send hospitalisation data to HHS as “solely an interim system” and added that the CDC has been “working with us right now to build a revolutionary new data system so it can be moved back to the CDC,” the WSJ reports.
The CDC has long overseen the tracking of relevant infectious disease threats in the country through its National Health Safety Network, and both public health experts and state officials were quick to condemn the sudden decision to move that process away from the agency.
In the month since the move, there have been repeated delays and inconsistencies in the data compiled by HHS — problems that have impeded efforts to reliably track the course of the pandemic in recent weeks and which could, experts have warned, lead to gaps in allocating important resources to hospitals, including the drug remdesivir, which has shown promise in shortening the length of symptoms among hospitalized patients.
It’s unclear at this point when the switch back to the CDC is expected to happen or if there will be any substantial changes to the process once the CDC is in charge again. HHS has not yet responded to a request for comment regarding these details.