Nearly three dozen health experts object to HHS coronavirus database

Nearly three dozen health experts object to HHS coronavirus database
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The Trump administration's new coronavirus database is forcing hospitals and states to completely revamp their reporting systems and will have "serious consequences on data integrity," a group of more than 30 current and former government health officials warned.

The officials are all current or former members of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee, a federal advisory committee that provides guidance to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

In a statement first reported by The New York Times on Wednesday, the officials said the administration's abrupt change in COVID-19 reporting has left hospitals "scrambling to determine how to meet daily reporting requirements."

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Last month, the Trump administration abruptly told hospitals to send crucial COVID-19 data to a new online system run by HHS rather than the CDC. 

HHS officials have said the new system is meant to be much more comprehensive and transparent than the previous system, which they said was unwieldy and outdated.

The information being reported is supposed to help officials and the public track infections in specific areas. The reports include information about current patients and the number of available beds and ventilators and are used to allocate supplies such remdesivir, one of the only drugs shown to treat severe COVID patients. 

However, public updates in the past month have been sporadic, and the database has been rife with information that's missing, incomplete or incorrect. 

Hospitals questioned why the switch happened in the middle of a pandemic and said they were unprepared because the administration notified them just days before the change took effect. 

Public health groups also protested the sudden change and questioned whether the administration would manipulate the data for political purposes. 

In their statement, the experts said they were "troubled" by the decision to divert COVID-19 data to HHS since the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network is considered one of the country’s most robust health tracking systems.

"The U.S. cannot lose their decades of expertise in interpreting and analyzing crucial data," the experts wrote.