Paramedics load a patient into an ambulance in Brooklyn, New York City, the US. Picture: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY
Paramedics load a patient into an ambulance in Brooklyn, New York City, the US. Picture: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY

New York —   Hospitals have been told to redirect Covid 19-related data to the US department of health and human services rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a change the government says will improve tracking but others fear could obscure how the pandemic is evolving.

The shift was announced in updated guidance posted on the department's website late last week. Hospitals were told that as of Wednesday, they should stop sending statistics such as intensive-care capacity and bed utilisation to the CDC’s National health-care Safety Network and route them to the department database instead.

The Trump administration said the move is meant to make it easier for the White House coronavirus task force to respond to the pandemic. The change was first reported by the New York Times.

“The CDC’s old data-gathering operation once worked well monitoring hospital information across the country, but it’s an inadequate system today,” Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the health department said  in a statement.

The change will yield a faster and more complete window into Covid-19 trends, he said.

Some groups outside the government raised concern that the change could make it harder for the public to find reliable information on what’s happening. One coronavirus tracking site, covidexitstrategy.org, lost access to data from the CDC on ICUs and beds, according to a statement on its website Wednesday.

“Our hope is this loss of critical public health information is temporary,” the site posted. “[The health department] is instituting a new process for collecting information from hospitals. The aggregate data from that system should be made public.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America issued a statement calling the change “troubling”, given the CDC has built up the expertise and infrastructure to handle and study such data.

“Placing medical data collection outside the leadership of public health experts could severely weaken the quality and availability of data, add an additional burden to already overwhelmed hospitals and add a new challenge to the US pandemic response,” IDSA president Thomas File Jr said in the statement.

Separately, Reuters reports Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, believed to be the first governor of a US state to do so.

Stitt disclosed his positive Test results in a video conference call with reporters.

“I got tested yesterday for Covid-19 and the results came back positive,” Stitt said. “I feel fine, I felt a little bit achy yesterday, I didn't have a fever.”

Oklahoma's first-term Republican governor faced a backlash in recent days after posting on Twitter a picture of himself and two of his children at a crowded restaurant, as state health authorities urged social distancing to slow a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Though Stitt encourages Oklahomans to wear masks, he rarely wears one in public and has not issued a statewide mask mandate.

Alabama, Florida and North Carolina all reported record daily increases in Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday.

With more than 3.3-million cases, the US has one of the highest numbers of cases per capita in the world. With more than 135,000 deaths, the US ranks seventh in fatalities per capita among the 20 countries with the most cases.

Florida on Tuesday reported 133 new Covid-19 deaths, raising the state's death toll to more than 4,500. Its previous record increase was 120 on July 9. Alabama reported an  increase of 40 deaths and North Carolina 35 deaths, bringing each state's total to more than  1,100.

Bloomberg, Reuters

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