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Union of Concerned Scientists
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Tell the Administration We Need Trustworthy Data to Fight the Pandemic

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The White House has ordered the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to stop collecting data on COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. Instead the administration will collect and filter the data through a third-party contractor hired under questionable circumstances by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), making politicization and suppression of the information more likely. Incredibly, as part of this change the data may no longer be available to the public in a timely manner.

This change must be reversed: Urge HHS Secretary Alex Azar to return reporting control to the CDC and make the data public.

Subject: Return data collection to the CDC

Dear Secretary Azar-

I urge you to work to reverse the recent move to stop the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from collecting data on COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations, and deaths and instead move to a third-party contractor. Especially as the data may no longer be available to the public in a timely manner.

The CDC has unparalleled expertise to collect and analyze data and to combat disease, especially infectious diseases. The CDC has the experience to be sufficiently transparent and use the best methods to engender confidence among scientists and the public and ensure we all have the information we need to protect ourselves and our communities from COVID-19.

Further, a failure to make trustworthy data immediately publicly available will hamper research efforts by scientists outside government, since a lot of academic research on COVID-19 heavily relies on CDC datasets. This slows down our ability to respond and makes it more difficult to understand what kinds of public health protection measures are actually working. It becomes more difficult to understand and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 illness and death on Black and Latinx people compared to White populations.

This abrupt change also puts more pressure on an already overtaxed medical system. Dramatically changing data reporting policies and processes for health care providers is challenging in the best of times, much less when health care workers and hospitals are already overstretched and struggling to respond to the pandemic. Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers need to be able to focus on caring for COVID-19 patients, not on learning new data reporting procedures that distract from patient care. Creating more confusion right now is almost certain to make an already barely manageable situation worse.

That's why this move must be reversed. We need the best, most current information we can get—that means data from the CDC. It also means supporting increased contact tracing and testing.

I urge you to do all you can, as Secretary of HHS, to return data collection to the CDC; to make the data publicly available so that doctors, government officials, and the public have the information they need; and to push for the increased contract tracing and testing to ensure we have the tools we need to combat this pandemic.

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