Democrats Demand Trump Reverse Order Directing COVID-19 Data to HHS
By Jake Johnson
Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate are demanding that the Trump administration immediately reverse an order requiring hospitals to send Covid-19 patient information directly to a Health and Human Services database instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a change that threw the data-collection process into chaos as states struggle to cope with soaring infections.
NPR reported Friday that "hospital data in Kansas and Missouri is suddenly incomplete or missing" following the Trump administration's directive, which took effect on July 15 to the dismay of experts and local officials who previously relied on the CDC system to track the coronavirus and allocate resources.
"The Missouri Hospital Association reports that it no longer has access to the data it uses to guide statewide coronavirus planning, and the Kansas Hospital Association says its hospital data reports may be delayed," according to NPR. "The absence of the data will make it harder for health and public officials, as well as the general public, to understand how the virus is spreading."
Led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), 46 members of the Senate Democratic caucus sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx demanding that the White House reverse its decision to divert Covid-19 data from the CDC to an HHS database run by TeleTracking Technologies, a private contractor.
"In the midst of a global pandemic, these changes pose serious challenges to the nation's response by increasing the data management burden for hospitals, potentially delaying critical supply shipments, compromising access to key data for many states, and reducing transparency for the public," the senators wrote. "The Trump administration's mismanagement of the Covid-19 response and refusal to heed public health expertise continue to put the country in a dangerous position."
Nearly 70 House Democrats on Friday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar urging the agency to reverse the new directive, which the Trump administration portrayed as an attempt to streamline the data-reporting process.
"This is another unethical and irresponsible effort to hinder public access to data and remove transparency and accountability from the administration's poor management of this pandemic," the lawmakers wrote.
At a time when we already have more than 3.5 million cases and more than 138,300 deaths, we should not allow health… https://t.co/7gH0WvlTkr— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal)1595005963.0
The White House directive, first made public in a document posted on the HHS website last week, reportedly "came as a shock at the CDC," which previously received the data and made it available to the public.
Critics immediately warned that submitting crucial coronavirus patient data to a system managed by HHS would leave the information vulnerable to political spin.
"It's hugely problematic," said Dr. Karen Maddox, public health researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. "The only way that we know where things are going up and where things are going down and where we need to be putting resources and where we need to be planning is because of those data."
Shortly after the administration's new directive took effect Wednesday, observers noticed that hospital data was removed from the CDC website. HHS had the information restored on Thursday but said the data would not be updated on the CDC site beyond July 14.
New HHS apology memo is worthless... HHS directs COVID hospital data “Re-establish the dashboard” to CDC website ..… https://t.co/zv29VX5Ijg— Eric Feigl-Ding (@Eric Feigl-Ding)1594928291.0
The Missouri Hospital Association said in a notice on its website that it "will be unable to access critical hospitalization data during the transition" to the Trump administration's new data-collection system.
Dave Dillon, spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association, told NPR that the organization hopes to have access to the data it needs "within a few days or weeks."
"However, in the short term," Dillon said, "we'll be very much in the dark."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.
High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.
Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.
California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.
As reported by AccuWeather:
In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.
For a deeper dive:
- Bond Fire South of LA Forces 25,000 to Flee - EcoWatch ›
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- 10 Wildfires Ignite Around Los Angeles in Unseasonable Wind and ... ›
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By Monir Ghaedi
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.
European satellites continue to provide data on climate change.