Shifting virus data hurts trust

Health care workers administer free drive-thru novel coronavirus tests at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Wednesday. Dreamstime/Tribune News Service

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on July 17:

DALLAS (Tribune News Service) — If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is how important accurate and transparent data is to this country getting control of this disease.

In our view, COVID-19 data is best collected and analyzed by the professionals and health experts at the Centers for Disease Control.

We worry about the CDC’s report that the Trump administration has told states to start sending hospital data to Health and Human Services in Washington first, instead of sending it directly to the CDC. Up until [July 14], the information on hospital capacity, health care worker staffing and personal protective equipment supply had been readily available on the CDC website. What was left by Thursday was a note saying the information gathered through July 14 would no longer be updated.

Public trust that we are getting accurate and timely information is critical as cases and deaths continue to mount in Texas and other states.

On Wednesday, Dallas County alone recorded its 13th consecutive day of more than 1,000 coronavirus cases. The day before, it tied a record of 20 deaths. County Judge Clay Jenkins says this week could be one of the deadliest.

Hospital capacity information is critical. For its part, the HHS say the decision was made to streamline data reporting and to provide HHS officials with real-time data. We’re glad to hear Director Michael Caputo say that the CDC should make the data public on its web site again. We hope he makes that happen.

We know that the CDC’s reporting infrastructure on COVID-19 has been less than perfect. Still, shifting the data away from going directly to the CDC raises concerns about how forthcoming the Trump administration will be on giving the Americans a clear overall picture of where the nation’s pandemic fight stands.

In the last week, President Donald Trump and White House officials continued to question the expertise of public health officials. Trump has cast doubt on the precautions recommended by his own top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

We’ve repeatedly argued that if we have any hope of slowing this virus, we must follow the science and the advice of the experts on wearing masks and social distancing.

There are too many Americans still not taking this disease seriously. Having a central collection of data, objectively analyzed by experts charged with controlling infectious disease in this country, is the best thing we can do to convince more people that this pandemic is real.

The CDC exists to ensure that America has the best research and analysis of infectious disease. There should be no roadblocks to it doing its job.

The response to this pandemic has been woefully inadequate by many of our government leaders. This has the potential to make it worse.

Visit the Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. © 2020 the Dallas Morning News.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(2) comments

rdsouth

When I send information through the internet (I'll bet they're using it) I can usually send it to more than one recipient. What could possibly be the reason for cutting out the CDC?

zeitgeist

In removing the CDC from the picture, Trump gets to politicize, manipulate, withhold and ignore data, freeing him to paint the pandemic picture according to his liking and personal and political advantage.

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