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NATIONAL HEALTH/SCI/TECH

Trump Removes CDC as Coronavirus Data Recipient, Cedes Control to HHS

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, addresses a briefing on the latest information about the Coronavirus Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in the James S. Brady Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber) Date: 31 January 2020, 15:44 Source: White House Press Briefing Author: The White House from Washington, DC

The decision to remove the CDC from coronavirus data collection now puts health data further from public view.

President Trump’s feud with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) took a new turn yesterday when the White House ordered hospitals to send daily coronavirus data to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) instead of the CDC. A letter addressed to hospitals across the nation alarmed many health experts.

The announcement comes on the same day as CDC director Robert Redfield said, “I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 is probably going to be one of the most difficult times that we’ve experienced in American public health.”

Coronavirus cases continue to climb in many states, and the daily total was 65,594 yesterday and daily deaths at 937.

White House officials claim the data move will help streamline resource management, however, the HHS database will not be open to the public.

Trump has leveled heavy criticism against the CDC and other top health experts. Trump’s retweet of game show host Chuck Woolery drew ire earlier this week.

Woolery tweeted, “the most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”

Florida

The data move is reminiscent of Florida’s removal of a top coronavirus data scientist from a key project that tracked the spread of the virus in the state. Rebekah Jones, the data scientist, said she was fired because she refused to manipulate data, and she alleged Florida’s current coronavirus data is not trustworthy.

Florida is now one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots in the country with daily case tolls regularly above 10,000. Florida also reported its highest number of deaths Monday with 132.

Jones wrote in an opinion piece for US Today on the confusing state of Florida’s coronavirus data, and said, “maybe that’s what Florida authorities want — to create confusion so they can dismiss any damning information as a misinterpretation of the data.”

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Reports from Florida and other states have said that hospitals are at capacity and ICU beds are filling up.

The White House’s move to consolidate data collection under HHS has drawn criticism that the nation might be following Florida’s footsteps. Trump has repeatedly claimed the United States would have fewer coronavirus cases if the country reduced the number of tests it performs.

Public Health and Public Trust

Public health officials have struggled to gain public trust. Trump’s disparaging remarks have done little to instill more confidence during the coronavirus crisis.

Jones wrote, “public distrust in the officials who are supposed to lead us opens up too many avenues for amateurs and pseudo scientists to fill the data hole with unreliable, unvetted and unsourced information.”

The politicization of public health and the pandemic response has deepened the crisis according to many experts.

Four top public health officials spanning Obama, Bush, and Clinton’s presidency wrote in The Washington Post about how Trump has undermined CDC recommendations for returning to school, leading to confusion for schools and parents. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has also played a crucial role in pushing schools to open even in cases where it is impossible for schools to observe the CDC’s recommendations.

The four top public health officials wrote, “willful disregard for public health guidelines is, unsurprisingly, leading to a sharp rise in infections and deaths.”

And despite President Trump’s late acceptance of masks, political leaders have already sown enough anti-mask sentiment to lead to a breakdown in trust of public health officials.

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Alec Pronk

Alec is a freelance writer with an interest in both geopolitics and American domestic issues. He finished his Master's degree with a critical focus on government counterterrorism policies.

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