Hospital data related to the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. will now be collected by a private technology firm, rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a move the Trump administration says will speed up reporting but one that concerns some public health leaders.
The CDC director said Wednesday that he's fine with the change — even though some experts fear it will further sideline the agency.
The CDC has agreed to step out of the government's traditional data collection process "in order to streamline reporting,” Dr. Robert Redfield said during a call with reporters set up by the agency's parent, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
HHS officials recently posted a document on the agency's website that redirected hospitals' daily reporting of a range of data meant to assess the impact of the coronavirus on them. TeleTracking Technologies, based in Pittsburgh, will now collect that information.
Some experts expressed suspicion and concern about the decision.
The data “are the foundation that guide our response to the pandemic,” Dr. Thomas File, Jr., president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said in a statement.
Collecting and reporting public health data has always been a core function of the CDC, he added. “The administration should provide funding to support data collection and should strengthen the role of CDC to collect and report COVID-19 data," he said.
In other developments:
- Arizona, Texas and Florida together reported about 25,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday as restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the pandemic took hold in the United States and around the world in an unsettling sign reminiscent of the dark days of April.
- Alabama will begin requiring face masks after the state reported a pandemic-high of 40 deaths in a single day. In Texas, which again set a record Wednesday for confirmed new cases with nearly 10,800, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has increasingly emphasized face coverings as the state's way out of avoiding another lockdown, which he has not ruled out.
- Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam's Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy that has otherwise proven difficult to enforce without state and federal requirements. The company said Wednesday that the policy will go into effect on Monday to allow time to inform customers.
- Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a first-term Republican governor who has backed one of the country's most aggressive reopening plans, became the first U.S. governor to announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He plans to quarantine at home.
- As school districts across the country decide how and when they can bring students back to campus safely, a major sticking point is emerging: the money to make it happen.
- In Washington, a divided approach to the pandemic response spilled into public view in extraordinary fashion, with trade adviser Peter Navarro panning Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Fauci called the criticism “nonsense” and “a bit bizarre.” Trump stepped in to referee, saying “we’re all on the same team.”
- Organizers canceled the 2021 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, because of the pandemic's impact on long-range planning for the New Year’s tradition, the Tournament of Roses Association said Wednesday. But Disney World went ahead with the rolling opening of its Florida theme parks that started last weekend, welcoming back visitors to Epcot and Hollywood Studios — despite the surge of cases in the state.
For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for helpful tips, charts tracking testing and more.
Virus by the numbers
9 charts tracking the spread:
Coronavirus cases and deaths by day
COVID-19 cases by county
The coronavirus 'curve,' by country
Coronavirus spreads across the United States
COVID-19 testing, ranked state by state
AP chart: More virus cases in GOP-run states
Racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases
US spread compared to other countries
Map shows global spread of coronavirus
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.