Article by Sam Whitehead: “…The federal government’s public health emergency that’s been in effect since January 2020 expires May 11. The emergency declaration allowed for sweeping changes in the U.S. health care system, like requiring state and local health departments, hospitals, and commercial labs to regularly share data with federal officials.
But some shared data requirements will come to an end and the federal government will lose access to key metrics as a skeptical Congress seems unlikely to grant agencies additional powers. And private projects, like those from The New York Times and Johns Hopkins University, which made covid data understandable and useful for everyday people, stopped collecting data in March.
Public health legal scholars, data experts, former and current federal officials, and patients at high risk of severe covid outcomes worry the scaling back of data access could make it harder to control covid.
There have been improvements in recent years, such as major investments in public health infrastructure and updated data reporting requirements in some states. But concerns remain that the overall shambolic state of U.S. public health data infrastructure could hobble the response to any future threats.
“We’re all less safe when there’s not the national amassing of this information in a timely and coherent way,” said Anne Schuchat, former principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A lack of data in the early days of the pandemic left federal officials, like Schuchat, with an unclear picture of the rapidly spreading coronavirus. And even as the public health emergency opened the door for data-sharing, the CDC labored for months to expand its authority.
Eventually, more than a year into the pandemic, the CDC gained access to data from private health care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes, commercial labs, and state and local health departments…(More)”. See also: Why we still need data to understand the COVID-19 pandemic