AG Ellison calls for immediate withdrawal of directive that strips CDC of control over COVID-19 data
Joins coalition of 22 AGs expressing serious concerns with new reporting structure that inhibits access to data
July 28, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Stressing that a new directive from the White House imperils public health and dangerously undermines transparency during the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a multistate effort urging the Trump Administration 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 to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II, Attorney General Ellison 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.
“In the worst global pandemic in a century — when more than 4 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, more than 150,000 have died from it, and new cases are rising dramatically each day — it is unconscionable and immoral to deliberately undermine trust in the institution that is charged with sharing information transparently and guiding us in addressing the crisis. I am calling on the Trump administration to reverse course immediately,” Attorney General Ellison said.
In the letter, the attorneys general argue that the Trump Administration’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 that 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. Attorney General Ellison 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 instead that hospital data be reported in a separate system than nursing home data, and gives sensitive information to private contractors without assurance of appropriate protections.
Attorney General Ellison 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 Attorney General Ellison in sending today’s letter are Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who led the coalition, and joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.