Coronavirus data no longer going through CDC contains errors, misinformation: report

Analysts say the Trump administration's new online COVID-19 data system that bypasses the old platform managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leads to delays and misinformation.

According to data analysts interviewed by NPR, the new system using data aggregated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allegedly contains errors and inconsistencies, with listed accounts of medical facilities reporting difficulties sending information to HHS.

The delays in data reports leave the exact numbers of available hospital beds, ventilators and other vital equipment for treating COVID-19 somewhat unknown, relative to when new reports are published.

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Lisa Lee, a former chief science officer for public health surveillance at the CDC, told NPR, "If the information is not accurate, it could cost time — and lives."

This month, the White House announced new requirements instructing hospitals and medical facilities to bypass the CDC on COVID-19 data reporting.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said during a hearing Friday with the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Response that the agency was not "directly involved in the final decision" for HHS to bypass the CDC.

He added that the "CDC then and now continues to have access to all data, does all the data analytics, so there's no restriction of any of the data."

Redfield said the reason for the administration's decision to place HHS at the helm of COVID-19 data analysis was to supply the administration with real-time hospitalization data to speed up shipments of remdesivir, a drug proven to treat COVID-19, to medical facilities. 

HHS sent a notice to hospitals across the country on July 10 notifying facilities about the change to COVID-19 data reports. The federal health department added it would be using a reporting platform developed by the private contractor TeleTracking, NPR reported.

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HHS previously said the change was necessary, calling the CDC's system too slow. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the existing CDC platform was only reporting data from half of the hospital networks across the nation.

Still, current hospital capacity data from HHS was last updated July 23, leaving more than one week of unknown changes in the data until the next update arrives.

The Hill reached out to HHS about hospital capacity data delays but did not immediately hear back.