Donald Trump holds up a picture alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar (L) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials, CDCP headquarters, Atlanta, Georgia, March 6, 2020 (Alex Brandon/AP)
In its latest attack on Government medical and public health experts amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the Trump camp has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the analysis of data.
This month Donald Trump and his inner circle have assailed the White House’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. They have quashed the CDC’s guidance on schools, churches, and businesses as Trump pursues re-election with the demand for a full “reopening” of the US.
Now the Administration has issued an order for all Coronavirus patient information to be sent to a central database in Washington, rather than to the CDC.
The instructions, in a document on the Department of Health and Human Services website, took effect on Wednesday. They included the number of patients each hospital is treating, available beds and ventilators, and other tracking information.
Administration officials claim the redirection will streamline data gathering and assist in allocation of scarce supplies such as personal protective equipment and the drug remdesivir, used to mitigate the virus.
However, the Health and Human Services database is closed, limiting access by researchers, modelers, and health officials who rely on CDC data. It also may raise issues of transparency as Trump and some of his advisors distort and even deny numbers and information about Coronavirus.
Two officials said the CDC was not consulted about the change. The agency was attacked by Health and Human Services spokesman Michael Caputo, who said the CDC’s system is inadequate.
Four former CDC directors wrote on Tuesday about the Administration’s undermining of the agency during the pandemic:
The only valid reason to change released guidelines is new information and new science — not politics….
[Medical experts’] sound science is being challenged with partisan potshots, sowing confusion and mistrust at a time when the American people need leadership, expertise and clarity. These efforts have even fueled a backlash against public health officials across the country: Public servants have been harassed, threatened and forced to resign when we need them most. This is unconscionable and dangerous.
The directors, with a total of 15 years at the head of the CDC, summarize, “Willful disregard for public health guidelines is, unsurprisingly, leading to a sharp rise in infections and deaths. America now stands as a global outlier in the coronavirus pandemic.”