Signs thanking health care workers are planted in front of Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford. Cloe Poisson /
St. Francis Hospital in Hartford is one the Connecticut hospitals that stopped reporting COVID-19 data to the CDC this week. Cloe Poisson /

Washington – Connecticut hospitals stopped reporting coronavirus cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday, part of a nationwide change the Trump administration says is needed to streamline the process but one critics say is an attempt to hide information and politicize the pandemic.

Now the nation’s hospitals, including more than 30 in Connecticut, are required to report COVID-19 cases and other information directly to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Before Wednesday, hospitals reported to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network, which tracked how many beds and ventilators were available and how many COVID-19 patients were in the nation’s hospitals.

Paul Kidwell, spokesman for the Connecticut Hospital Association, said the change in policy was effective immediately Wednesday and has “created some work to make sure everything is reported to the right entity.” He also said Connecticut’s hospitals had been reporting some data to HHS, as well as the CDC, before the policy change took effect.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, is among the critics of the change. She said the order to “bypass CDC and send coronavirus patient information to a central database in Washington are in direct violation of the law.”

“HHS has been operating as a dangerous, political apparatus and cannot be trusted to share accurate hospital information with Congress and the American public,” DeLauro said. “More than 135,000 people in the United States have died due to the coronavirus. How many more people must suffer, and how many more families must lose loved ones before this administration stops playing political games?

DeLauro also said President Donald Trump “fumbled our coronavirus response.”

“He can try to intentionally hide the exploding number of cases, but the people will not be fooled,” she said.

A national Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed  6 in 10 respondents said they trust information the CDC is providing about the coronavirus.

HHS has been operating as a dangerous, political apparatus and cannot be trusted to share accurate hospital information with Congress and the American public.”— U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro

The shift in Trump administration policy also comes as some in the administration and the president’s re-election effort have attacked the credibility of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top epidemiologist and a key member of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force. A Quinnipiac poll showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents, 65–26 percent, said they trust the information Fauci is providing about the coronavirus.

However, HHS spokesman Michael Caputo said the changed hospital reporting policy is necessary to collect coronavirus data more quickly and completely. He said the CDC had a one-week lag in reporting hospital data.

“The President’s Coronavirus Task Force has urged improvements for months, but they cannot keep up with this pandemic,” Caputo said. “Today, the CDC still provides data from only 85 percent of hospitals — the president’s COVID response requires 100 percent to report.”

The Lamont administration also relies on information the hospitals report to the federal government to determine the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state.

After the Connecticut Hospital Association collects data from its 27 member hospitals on how many COVID-19 cases each facility has and sends it to the federal government, the state has access to that information, said Av Harris, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

The CHA also provides the governor’s office and the Connecticut Department of Public Health with data on coronavirus infections and intensive care unit patients it submits daily to the federal government.

The state’s hospitals report the number of COVID-19 cases to CHA once a day, usually by email. Some cases may miss the daily reporting deadline and get logged the next day, Kidwell said.

“I can’t say there is no lag time,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Lamont administration reported there have been a total of  47,636 COVID-19 cases in the state, 106 of them since Tuesday, but only 67 hospitalizations. However, increases in hospitalizations usually occur a week or two after an increase in new infections are reported as  patients’ COVID-19 symptoms become more severe.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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