CDC Data Censorship Sparks Outcry, Forces HHS to Reverse Course
The backlash to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) order for hospitals across the country to stop reporting data to the CDC and instead send their data to a private contractor was fast and furious.
In the lead-up to the implementation of that order, which goes into effect today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) removed coronavirus tracking data from its website, prompting an outcry that forced HHS to put the data back up on its site, as The Washington Post reported.
On Thursday, governors from across the country added their voices to the groundswell of objections to the plan and the abruptness of the change to the reporting protocols for hospitals, according to The Washington Post. They asked the administration to delay the shift for 30 days. In a statement, the National Governors Association said hospitals need the month to learn a new system while simultaneously handling the pandemic.
Democrats have accused the administration of seeking to subvert the CDC and potentially manipulate coronavirus findings.
"I don't know why the White House is saying they want to hide the numbers, but it makes no sense in terms of fighting this crisis," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Thursday, as POLITICO reported.
The maneuver seems like an attempt by the Trump administration to shift blame for the mismanagement of the coronavirus to the CDC. In addition to governors rebelling, the medical community was appalled that the CDC would be sidelined.
"Placing medical data collection outside of the leadership of public health experts could severely weaken the quality and availability of data, add an additional burden to already overwhelmed hospitals and add a new challenge to the U.S. pandemic response," said Thomas File Jr., president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, in a statement, as The Hill reported.
That is when HHS directed the agency to put the information back up on its website.
"HHS is committed to being transparent with the American public about the information it is collecting on the coronavirus. Therefore, HHS has directed CDC to re-establish the coronavirus dashboards it withdrew from the public on Wednesday," Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs Michael Caputo said Thursday, as CNN reported.
"Going forward, HHS and CDC will deliver more powerful insights on the coronavirus, powered by HHS Protect," said Caputo. HHS Protect is the department's coronavirus information center.
CDC officials were reluctant to maintain the dashboard if they were no longer receiving first-hand information. The dashboard shows the number of people with COVID-19, the number affected by SARS-COV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and hospital bed capacity. The CDC dashboard states that its information comes directly from hospitals and does not include data submitted to "other entities contracted by or within the federal government." It also says the dashboard will not be updated after July 14.
"This file will not be updated after July 14, 2020 and includes data from April 1 to July 14," the CDC said, as CNBC reported.
As The Washington Post noted, the CDC site had been one of the few public sources of granular information about hospitalizations and ICU bed capacity. About 3,000 hospitals, or about 60 percent of U.S. hospitals, reported their data to the CDC's system.
Now the new requirements have hospitals and state officials in a bind. At least some state health departments that have been collecting data for their hospitals and sending it to Washington have already said the switch will make it impossible for them to continue, at least for now, according to The Washington Post.
The changed protocol includes a requirement that hospitals send several additional types of data that some state systems are not equipped to handle, state health officials said, as The Washington Post reported.
The reporting change "is a heavy lift for hospitals," said Charles L. Gischlar, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health to The Washington Post. He added that the new system "exceeds the capacity of the current statewide system."
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus and the Terrifying Muzzling of Public Health Experts ... ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine - EcoWatch ›
By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
- Biden Commits to Banning Fossil Fuel Subsidies After DNC Dropped It ›
- As Biden Embraces More Ambitious Climate Plan, Fossil Fuel Execs ... ›
- Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Grayson Jaggers
The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.
- 15 Indigenous Crops to Boost Your Immune System and Celebrate ... ›
- 15 Supplements to Boost Your Immune System Right Now - EcoWatch ›
- Should I Exercise During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Experts ... ›
- The Immune System's Fight Against the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.
- FDA Approves First In-Home Test for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- When Should You Get a COVID-19 or Antibody Test? - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
- Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial Into Agency Reports ... ›
- Climate Denier Is Named to Leadership Role at NOAA - EcoWatch ›
New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.