White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Monday that the coronavirus data collected from hospitals has been “extraordinarily important.”
“We have an interim system – it is solely an interim system – to get daily reports from hospitals of new admissions,” Birx said in a roundtable discussion hosted by Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. “I think that has been critically important to support the states.”
The White House began asking hospitals to provide coronavirus data daily in March. In July, the Trump administration announced it was requiring hospitals to bypass the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and report coronavirus data directly to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Data previously collected through the CDC’s National Health Safety Network is now reported directly to HHS through its coronavirus data collection system, HHS Protect. The move raised concerns that the CDC was being sidelined and that the transparency of the data could be impacted.
At the time, CDC Director Robert Redfield framed the policy change as a mutual decision by HHS and CDC to streamline data collection, saying in a statement, “No one is taking access or data away from CDC.”
In a letter dated July 31 and intended for HHS, nearly three dozen public health advisors to the government raised concerns that the new data collection process could compromise the integrity of the data and the CDC’s ability to respond to the pandemic.
Birx said that the CDC will still be involved in hospital data collection.
“CDC is working with us right now to build a revolutionary new data system, so it can be moved back to the CDC, and they can have that regular accountability with hospitals relevant to treatment and PPE,” she said.
Birx added that data can be impactful, when it is acted on.
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“We still have a ways to go to continue to improve on that system, but for the first time, every day I can see every new admission across the country, and that has been extraordinarily important,” she said.
Birx said the data has been particularly helpful in revealing what supplies small hospitals need to meet the demand in their communities.
“That’s what I’m hoping we can get to for testing, for PPE, for all of the therapeutics, so that every American has what they need, at the time that they need it,” said Birx.