The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently removed data on hospital capacity for medical facilities across the country from its website. Since COVID-19 hospitalizations have often been used to speculate on how well the health care system can handle the coronavirus outbreak, a lot of people expressed their displeasure over the data being removed and even suggested that the removal of data is a political move by the Trump administration to “hide their failures.” Eventually, that data was restored to the site.
On Wednesday, ProPublica noticed that the CDC’s website had stopped displaying hospital capacity information, which was seen as a good barometer of whether hospitals in certain states had enough beds to deal with surges in COVID-19 cases. The data showed that more than 70% of intensive care unit beds in some states, including Texas and Arizona, were filled. That had been viewed by some experts as a benchmark for safely reopening businesses.
This week, federal officials instructed hospitals to stop reporting data to the CDC and instead report it using a portal created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They said that the CDC’s data system was antiquated, and that HHS wanted to use this information to help make real-time decisions about testing and shipments of personal protective equipment.
On Thursday morning, when ProPublica confirmed that the information had not been restored to the CDC website up to that point, members of Congress and a former CDC director weighed in to call for more transparency.
It appears that a lot of people were not buying the explanation that the HHS needs the data for their own decision making and that’s the reason the CDC shouldn’t be the department that receives the information. This could have something to do with the number of times Trump has appeared to be at odds with the CDC, or maybe it was Vice President Mike Pence’s declaration that “To be very clear, we don’t want CDC guidance to be a reason why people don’t reopen their schools.”
Either way, a lot of officials took to Twitter to call the president out.
Even former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden weighed in tweeting, “We’re in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years. More than 137,000 Americans have died. Covid is exploding in Arizona, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, and other states. And the administration has chosen to sideline the CDC. Where did this data go?”
Around noon Thursday, the data had been restored to the CDC website.
According to CNBC, HHS spokesman Michael Caputo said in a statement that it was his department instructed the CDC to restore the data to its site.
“Yes, HHS is committed to being transparent with the American public about the information it is collecting on the coronavirus,” Caputo said. “Therefore, HHS has directed CDC to re-establish the coronavirus dashboards it withdrew from the public on Wednesday.”
On Wednesday, Pence defended the decision to have hospitals send data to HHS instead of the CDC saying, “This is about making the system better,” Pence said. “CDC will be a part of that, part of the reporting of that, and the American people will have that information. And just as importantly, policymakers that are making decisions about where those critical resources go will have better real time information.”