US government moves to end daily reporting of COVID-19 deaths by hospitals

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The US federal government will no longer require hospitals to report the number of people who die from COVID-19 each day, according to new guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

On Jan. 6, HHS released updated guidelines on the information hospitals provide to the agency. the guidelines note the “retirement of fields no longer required to be reported”, among which “deaths due to COVID-19 from the previous day”.

the guidelines note: “This field has been made inactive for federal data collection. Hospitals no longer need to report these data elements to the federal government. This change takes effect on February 2.

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Biden administration’s decision to weaken reporting of COVID-19 deaths has direct precedents in the Trump administration. The House COVID Subcommittee’s 2021 Year-End Report said “Trump administration officials deliberately weakened the CDC’s coronavirus testing guidelines in August 2020 to mask how quickly the virus is spreading. was spreading across the country.

A document released Jan. 6 by U.S. Health and Human Services tells hospitals they are no longer required to report daily COVID-19 deaths to the federal government starting Feb. 2.

Although the new HHS guidelines were released on Jan. 6, they weren’t made public until they were publicized by Dr. Jorge A. Caballero, a physician and clinical instructor at Stanford University, on Twitter.

On Friday afternoon, Dr. Caballero wrote, “Would like to understand why the Feds will no longer be requiring hospitals to report the daily number of #COVID19 deaths beginning February 2”

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Caballero retweeted a response from this reporter noting that the same day HHS released the updated guidelines, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, former Biden administration COVID-19 adviser and eugenics advocate, published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) calling on governments to “withdraw” the reporting of deaths from COVID-19.

Emanuel’s call for a “new normal” was greeted with an editorial in the Washington Post and a lead interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, America’s biggest Sunday talk show.

Although hospitals will continue to report to state health authorities and, via the states, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many states, led by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, are preparing themselves to end daily reporting on COVID-19, or have already done so.

The CDC is in talks with the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists about a directive that “would direct states to limit daily case reporting,” according to a Dec. 30 report in the New York Times.

States run by far-right Republicans are already reducing testing and reporting.

Tennessee, led by far-right Governor Bill Lee, who refused to recognize the election of US President Joe Biden, has already halted daily case reporting, moving to a once-a-week testing reporting system.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said last month that the state intends to “untie” the “testing mentality.” Ladapo reports to DeSantis, a right-wing ideologue who also refused to acknowledge the 2020 election result.

Even more states are planning to end daily case reporting, with many “who are still reporting daily looking forward to making the change in the months ahead,” said Marcelle Layton, chief medical officer at the Council of Epidemiologists for the United States. state and territories. Time.

After WSWS reporters verified that Caballero correctly summarized HHS guidelines, our report summarizing his findings was shared more than 6,000 times and viewed by more than two million people on Twitter.

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Commentators responded with outrage. “The US government doesn’t want us to know how many of us are dying,” Chris Richards wrote, in a comment that received 1,500 likes. Thousands of commentators expressed outrage that after promising to “follow the science”, the Biden administration took a step reminiscent of the Trump administration’s efforts to cover up the pandemic.

The day before, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked, as “the virus sets infection records”, if “things need to change”. PSAki replied, “We could certainly come up with legislation to see if people support bunnies and ice cream, but that wouldn’t be very rewarding for the American people,” sparking widespread outrage at the administration’s indifference. Biden to mass death.

Responding to Caballero’s tweet, Sarah Lovenheim, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, replied, “COVID mortality data remains publicly available. The data remains publicly available here and as there are new scans, it also becomes publicly available,” linking to CDC data compiled from state reports.

To this, Dr. Caballero responded, “There is no other source of daily #COVID19 hospital deaths at the state/national level. All other data sources are derivatives of *this* specific field. This field is *not found* in any other publicly available dataset. This field is used to estimate the total number of deaths from COVID and above.

Responding to claims by Dr. Caballero and the WSWS, Erin Kissane, a journalist at Atlantic and co-founder of the COVID Tracking Project, which closed on March 7 last year, responded that “hospitals no longer reporting covid deaths to HHS daily does not mean all covid deaths should not not be reported to local/state health authorities, who report them to the CDC. We are still counting the dead.

Similarly, BNO Newsroom tweeted: “Contrary to some tweets, the US is not ending daily reporting of COVID-19 deaths. Health Services will continue to provide updates as usual. BNO confirmed to this reporter that he was responding to our tweet, but gave no further details in response to our questions.

In response to these and other claims, Caballero wrote, “For my part, I want to have a secondary data source that can be used to double-check #COVID19 deaths reported by states with a 20-month history of unscrupulous policies and questionable data management.”

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Regardless of Kissane and BNO’s claims, the Caballero and WSWS reports are valid. On February 2, hospitals will no longer be required to report COVID-19 deaths directly to the federal government, and that data will depend on state governments moving to stop reporting themselves.

There is no public health justification for limiting data reporting amid a raging pandemic that is currently setting records for infections and hospitalizations. Much like under Trump, efforts by federal and state governments to limit reporting of COVID-19 are driven by a political effort to cover up infections and mass deaths.

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