Earlier this year, the federal government made a major change in how data about the epidemic is reported, and took hospital data collection away from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and funneled it to the CDC’s parent organization, the Ministry of Health and Humans. Services (HHS).
At the time, there were concerns that this represented an attempt to limit the public’s ability to see how bad the pandemic was – fears reinforced when the data was no longer publicly available as received. But some recent reports indicated that the change was primarily the work of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator, Deborah Birx, who He wanted more control On data collection and processing. However, regardless of the motive, the data streaming to HHS only made its way to the audience via its weekly summaries.
So far. Someone has it Daily reports leaked to NPR, Which found the reports weren’t all they could be, but they are still helpful to public health experts.
This data, contained in the daily reports, focuses on the hospital’s ability to treat COVID-19 patients. These include things like hospital beds availability, ICU capacity, and use of a ventilator. This can help track changes in epidemic-driven healthcare needs in real time; For example, NPR reports that ICU bed occupancy has increased by about 15 percent in the past month, tracking a steady rise in positive tests (although it’s too early to track them) Current increase In cases). Although the weekly briefs will allow for a closer look at how the pandemic is affecting our hospital system, they are likely too rough to provide the kind of detailed analysis that researchers and public health officials need to study and understand the evolution of COVID-19.
So who can access the daily reports? According to NPR, distribution is limited to “a few dozen government employees from HHS and its agencies.” Only one member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Admiral Brett Gerwier, appears to have acquired the material. Strangely, this appears to indicate that Dr. Birx, who has led the changes due to her desire for data, does not have direct access to it.
About 800 state health officials also have access to the Daily Reports, but only for their states by default. HHS indicated to NPR that these officials should request permission to see data from other countries. This creates a potential obstacle for officials in states such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, where a large, overlapping metropolitan area requires careful coordination.
Health experts showed that the NPR reports indicated two problems here. The first is that the report does not provide background on the capabilities of the various hospitals. Some small hospitals may be straining to care for patients when their intensive care unit capacity drops to 10 percent; Oversize you might be able to handle that easily. The second issue is that daily access to changes in hospital availability can help health officials target local behavior, whether through targeted restrictions on activities or simply by using them to motivate the public to take the epidemic more seriously.
Having daily data available, as mentioned above, would allow researchers to better analyze the impact of the pandemic on health resources. Obviously, this can help HHS itself, as independent researchers can conduct analyzes that HHS has no staff or has not considered.
However, while it is unfortunate that the government does not make this data available to the public, the data is still preserved in the event of a policy change in the future.