Report: Department of Health and Human Services to return COVID-19 data collection process to CDC

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be giving back the responsibility for collecting COVID-19 data from hospitals to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to an Aug. 20 report from The Wall Street Journal, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told health and government officials this week that the current system for how hospitals report new COVID-19 cases is an interim one. 

In July, the Trump administration ordered hospitals to send data to the HHS instead of the CDC, a move that has drawn criticism from public health experts who say that the White House has been politicizing the pandemic and sidelining the CDC.

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Hospitals previously reported to the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network, described by the agency as “the nation’s most widely used healthcare-associated infection tracking system.” The CDC is one of 11 divisions under the HHS, and has historically handled this sort of data.

“CDC is working with us right now to build a revolutionary new data system so it can be moved back to the CDC, and they can have that regular accountability with hospitals relevant to treatment and PPE,” Birx said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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The outlet reported that based on a statement from the HHS, the CDC is working with the U.S. Digital Service to build a “modernized automation process” for the data.

In July, a report published by a group headed by Dr. Thomas Frieden, a former CDC director, detailed essential information that U.S. states should report immediately to help contain the novel coronavirus spread.

“Unlike many other countries, the United States does not have standard, national data on COVID-19. The US also lacks standards for state-, county- and city- level public reporting of this life-and-death information,” according to a website from Prevent Epidemics. “We identified 15 essential indicators, and evaluated COVID-19 data dashboards for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

The essential indicators include:

-New confirmed and probable cases and per capita rates by date with 7-day moving
-COVID-19 daily hospitalization per capita rates and 7-day moving average
-New COVID-19 confirmed and probable deaths and per capita rates with 7-day moving average
-Time from specimen collection to isolation of cases, by week
-Percentage of new cases from among quarantined contacts, by week

Kelly Taylor Hayes contributed to this story.