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The Trump administration has restored public access to coronavirus data reported by hospitals to the federal government, after an outcry over missing data and controversy over a change in the agency that collects it.

The information is now being published on the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) site, HHS Protect, instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Healthcare Safety Network. 

The change was necessary, officials said, because they believed the CDC’s system was too slow, and wasn’t able to keep up with the constantly changing information about the virus.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar echoed that complaint during a call with governors on Monday, according to a source familiar with the discussion, saying the existing CDC system was only providing data for half of the hospital systems around the country and could not be adapted quickly enough to respond to the pace of crisis.

The new system will collect more data from more hospitals. CDC’s reporting system only collected data from about 3,000 of the country’s roughly 6,200 hospitals, HHS officials said. The new system collects data from about 4,500 hospitals in only a few days. It took weeks under the CDC system, officials said.

“We’re showing you a data set that is more robust and has more coverage than anything we have published, historically, before,” HHS chief information officer Jose Arrieta told reporters Monday. 

HHS last week instructed hospitals to change how they report certain coronavirus data to the government, bypassing the CDC and instead sending it to HHS directly. The new HHS database is run by a private contractor called TeleTracking, which was awarded a $10 million contract in April. 

The move sparked an outcry from outside health groups that feared the CDC was being sidelined, and raised concerns about political interference. 

HHS on Monday said there are multiple safeguards in place to prevent interference. For instance, all data is recorded and time stamped before it is accessible, and changes are tracked. 

“This is a system designed to be above politics and manipulation. The public health professionals who work at HHS are solemnly devoted to the health and wellness of all of America and committed to empowering Americans with the same knowledge guiding the decision makers in the COVID-19 response,” the agency said in an FAQ document. 

Arrieta said the raw data will be available to hospitals to use and incorporate into their own dashboards. Members of the public and third-party researchers will also have access to the raw data.

“We think that this level of transparency will not only help create and end develop some of the scientific minds of the future, but it creates maximum transparency for American citizens,” Arrieta said. 

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