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COVID Information Is Already Disappearing After Trump Shifts Control From CDC

Information on hospital beds and ICU availability was noticeably absent after the change was announced.

Registered Respiratory Therapist Niticia Mpanga looks through patient information in the ICU at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas, on July 15, 2020.

Data that was once made available to the general public is no longer accessible on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Data trackers noticed the missing data following an announcement earlier this week from the Trump administration that the information previously collected by that agency would instead be sent to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from this point forward.

The data that was removed included information on availability for hospital beds, ICU units, and more.

Ryan Panchadsaram, who runs the data-tracking site Covid Exit Strategy, noticed the removal on Tuesday, and discussed his concerns about the matter with CNBC.

“We were surprised because the modules that we normally go to were empty,” Panchadsaram said. “The data wasn’t available and not there.”

“There was no warning” about the information being removed from the website, he added.

The website Panchadsaram manages took note of the lost data in a message on its main page earlier this week.

“Unfortunately our data source for ICUs and beds has been removed by the CDC. Our hope is this loss of critical public health information is temporary,” Covid Exit Strategy wrote. “HHS is instituting a new process for collecting information from hospitals. The aggregate data from that system should be made public.”

Later, the CDC restored the old data that had been on the site, but added a new disclaimer, stating that it would no longer be updated after July 14.

HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo stressed that the information would be made available to the public shortly.

The department “is committed to being transparent with the American public about the information it is collecting on the coronavirus,” Caputo said.

CDC director Robert Redfield also tried to defend the change in a conference call on Wednesday. “No one is taking access or data away from CDC,” Redfield said to reporters.

But critics of the change in how that information is obtained expressed skepticism that the Trump administration would be equally transparent about the data, given the tendency of the White House to push politics over health concerns during the coronavirus pandemic so far.

“It’s really hard not to see this as some kind of interference or snub [to] the CDC,” University of Arizona epidemiologist Saskia Popescu told NPR. “With so many concerns over the politicization of data right now, this is concerning.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) also sounded alarm bells at the sudden change.

“It’s entirely unclear why the Trump Administration has asked states and hospitals to upend their reporting systems in the middle of a pandemic — in 48 hours nonetheless — without a single explanation as to why this new system is better or necessary,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

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