Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Tuesday joined a coalition of attorneys general urging the federal government to immediately withdraw its new reporting structure that prohibits hospitals from reporting COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and instead creates a system controlled solely by the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services.
In a letter sent to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II, Raoul and 21 other 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. Raoul and the coalition stress that the new directive imperils public health and dangerously undermines transparency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The CDC has nearly 75 years of experience in mitigating the spread of diseases and illnesses,” Raoul said. “Removing the CDC from the system for reporting hospital COVID-19 data will significantly inhibit its ability to battle this pandemic which has sickened and taken the lives of thousands throughout the United States, including more than 7,400 in Illinois.”
In the letter, Raoul and the attorneys general argue that the federal government’s decision to bypass the CDC in this national crisis harms the nation’s ability to track and respond to the pandemic, hampers state and local public health efforts to address the crisis in their communities, risks compromising the health data of millions of Americans, and undermines public confidence in any reports about COVID-19 coming from the federal government.
The letter also points out that the CDC is the nation’s authority on infectious disease, and state and local public health authorities and researchers rely on CDC data sources for responding to the pandemic in their communities and informing the science behind the virus.
Disaggregated data provided by the CDC has also revealed the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and informed efforts to address racial and ethnic health inequities. Raoul and the attorneys general insist that public health authorities and researchers must have access to the data they need to continue their vital work. This new reporting structure requires hospital data be reported in a separate system than nursing home data and gives sensitive information to private contractors without assurance of appropriate protections.
Raoul and the attorneys general contend that any issues with COVID-19 data reporting, analysis and tracking should be addressed by increasing support for the CDC and investing in its systems – not by circumventing the nation’s top public health experts.
Joining Raoul in sending the letter are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.