Coalition of attorneys general call for immediate withdrawal of directive that strips CDC of control over coronavirus data

(OLYMPIA)- Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Tuesday partnered with a coalition of state attorneys general urging the Trump Administration to immediately withdraw its new reporting structure that prohibits hospitals from reporting COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The directive creates a system controlled solely by the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services.

In a letter sent to Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Ferguson and 21 attorneys general urge the department to restore the CDC to its rightful role as the primary authority over and source of information about the nation’s public health data. In the letter, the attorneys general write that the Trump Administration’s decision to bypass the CDC in this national crisis harms the nation’s ability to track and respond to the pandemic. It hampers state and local public health efforts to address the crisis in their communities and risks compromising the health data of millions of Americans.

“We need reliable data and transparency now more than ever,” Ferguson said. “The Trump Administration’s move to circumvent our nation’s top public health experts and upend the coronavirus data reporting system in the midst of this pandemic is irresponsible and deeply misguided — and must be reversed.”

The CDC is the nation’s authority on infectious disease. It has an important role as the primary source for public health data, routinely used by state and local public health authorities and researchers to respond to crises. The data informs efforts to address public health emergencies like COVID-19.

Trained experts at the CDC lead the analysis and reporting of that data, protect its accuracy and guard against its misuse. Hospitals and nursing homes across the country have invested in systems to report COVID-19 data to the CDC.

The Trump Administration’s directive creates a new database and distribution system in the middle of a pandemic, making it more difficult for local health authorities to get critical data. The new reporting structure requires hospital data to be reported to a database created by private contractors, without assurance of appropriate protections for sensitive health data.

In the letter, the attorneys general write, “Any challenges with data reporting, analysis and tracking should be addressed by increasing support for the CDC and investing in its systems — not by circumventing our nation’s top public health experts. …This disruption threatens to further undermine the nation’s already chaotic response to the pandemic.”

Tuesday’s letter was signed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.