Updated at 2:23 p.m.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday joined a chorus of concerns about asurprise announcement by the Trump administrationthat data collection for COVID-19 is being moved from the CDC to the Department of Health and Human Services. Baker said the move will make it harder to discern “the truth” about the virus.
“The CDC has been the sort of source of truth — for lack of a better word — around what’s going on with regard to a lot of these issues for a long time,” Baker said at his daily coronavirus press briefing.
“I think as this virus has continued to grow around the country, it’s more important than ever that the CDC be able to produce what I would describe as ‘a daily statement on truth’ with regard to hospitalizations, cases, ICU utilization and all the rest,” Baker said.
The governor also said he and others are concerned about “a very significant increase in daily reporting requirements” that federal officials are requesting, without “much dialogue or discussion about defining a lot of the things that they’re asking for, so that they actually get what they are supposed to get.”
“Doing this bang-bang like this, without a heck of a lot of process when you are talking about this many moving parts and this many data elements ... sets us up for a situation where its going to be very hard to understand what truth actually is” when it comes to the virus' spread in New England and across the country, Baker said.
As of Wednesday, hospital data related to the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is now being collected by a private technology firm, rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The information includes bed occupancy, staffing levels, the severity level of coronavirus patients, ventilators on hand, and supplies of masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment. The CDC will continue to collect other data, like information about cases and deaths, from state health departments.
Michael Caputo, an HHS spokesman, said the CDC has been seeing a lag of a week or more in data coming from hospitals and that only 85% of hospitals have been participating. The change is meant to result in faster and more complete reporting, he said.
It's not clear how that will happen. HHS officials on Wednesday did not answer questions about whether there would be added government incentives or mandates to get more reporting from busy hospitals.
The CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network system was launched 15 years ago and is perhaps best known for its work gathering, and publicly reporting, data on hospital infections. It has helped drive a successful push to reduce certain kinds of hospital infections.
The system started doing COVID-19 data collection in March. Two other systems have been put in place since, one involving hospitals reporting directly to states and the other the TeleTracking system.
"The CDC's old data gathering operation once worked well monitoring hospital information across the country, but it's an inadequate system today," Caputo said in a statement shared with reporters. "The President's Coronavirus Task Force has urged improvements for months, but they just cannot keep up with this pandemic."
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.