The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed on Tuesday that the administration is ordering hospitals from across the country to send coronavirus data directly to Washington DC.
The centralization of data to the White House shall begin Wednesday. According to the assistant secretary for public affairs of HHS Michael Caputo, this decision is very crucial in the government’s battle against the outbreak. However, he noted that CDC will still be a part of the response. He also commented that the previous data gathering system of CDC is “an inadequate system today.”
In a 13-page document addressed to the hospitals and quietly posted on the website of HHS headlined “COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Reporting and FAQs for Hospitals, Hospital Laboratory, and Acute Care Facility Data Reporting, Updated July 10,2020,” it was explained that, “As information is received on a complete, daily basis, HHS and the Administration can turn to moving away from a manual entry process and toward an automated one to ultimately reduce the burden on data collection.”
This same uploaded file also instructs hospitals to “no longer report the COVID-19 information… to the National Healthcare Safety Network Site,” and instead choose from the options mentioned in the document. The National Healthcare Safety Network is the country’s tracking system for healthcare-related infection, such as the coronavirus. It is run by CDC.
Caputo told in a statement that the “new faster and complete data system is what our country needs to defeat the coronavirus and the CDC, an operating division of HHS, will certainly participate in this streamlined all-of-government response. They will simply no longer control it.”
The new system with a centralized database is dubbed as HHS Protect, which The Verge noted, was partially “built in part by data mining and predictive analytics firm Palantir.” The publication on an article recalled how the technology company has been contracted by secret government agencies and even the US military for some “controversial” projects. They also pointed out that the mostly secretive tech company is co-founded and initially backed by Peter Thiel, an entrepreneur who have shown support to Trump.
The New System?
It was remarked in The New York Times that this decision, which would not be publicized, could potentially impact those who are dependent on the data coming from CDC. They expressed that this move “could affect the work of scores of researchers, modelers, and health officials who rely on CDC data to make projections and crucial decisions.”
News also came after Trump accused the CDC of “lying” to the public about the health crisis, blaming them of trying to hold the economy back. There have also been previous reports of qualms between Trump and the CDC prior. The administration is also in the hot seat for their response to the COVID-19 outbreak.