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The White House has issued a directive to the nation’s hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “send all coronavirus patient information” straight to a non-public Health and Human Services database in D.C., the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
This appears to have generally alarmed many public health experts paying attention to the White House’s catastrophic handling of the ongoing pandemic, as hospitals will now be reporting their coronavirus data directly to HHS instead of CDC scientists. Documents sent to hospitals state that “As of July 15, 2020, hospitals should no longer report the Covid-19 information in this document to the National Healthcare Safety Network site,” the primary CDC system that currently handles data from some 25,000 U.S. medical institutions, according to the Times.
According to the Times, the change appears to be the result of a conference call weeks ago in which White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told health care executives that hospitals weren’t adequately reporting information. Association of American Medical Colleges chief health care officer Dr. Janis Orlowski told the paper that Birx subsequently worked with a group of both government and industry officials on the new plan, which will be managed by Pittsburgh-based private company TeleTracking. Documents also indicate it involves HHS Protect, which was partially built by Palantir, the ominous cyberintelligence firm co-founded by Trump ally Peter Thiel. (Disclosure: Thiel secretly bankrolled a lawsuit that bankrupted Gizmodo’s former parent company, Gawker Media.)
Orlowski said that the White House had pledged that coronavirus data sent to the system would continue to be publicly released and she trusted it is a “sincere effort to streamline and improve data collection.” HHS spokesperson Michael R. Caputo told the Times that nothing was going on but a good-faith move to ensure federal agencies have timely access to data. He added that the CDC system wasn’t being abandoned but will be linked to the HHS database.
The CDC “still has at least a week lag in reporting hospital data,” while the nation “requires it in real time,” Caputo told the paper. “The new, faster and complete data system is what our nation needs to defeat the coronavirus,