Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) develop a method of real-time national reporting of coronavirus cases, saying they worry the U.S. is “behind the curve.”
The two senators submitted a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield asking the federal agency to modernize its reporting capabilities, saying its current “significant” efforts “may not be enough to equip us to respond as fast as is required.” They wrote that real-time national reporting is needed to measure the “size and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak,” especially as states like Georgia and Oklahoma move to reopen.
“We are deeply concerned federal public health officials are behind the curve in assessing public health threat levels, because they lack immediate visibility into population health data,” the senators wrote.
“Any differences between state reporting methods create a lag in data analysis, and this lag, in turn, hampers the federal government's ability to assist state and local governments, appropriately distribute resources, or make sustainable and effective policy decisions,” the letter continues.
Romney and Sinema wrote that less than 10 percent of disease reports are submitted in a way that allows for real-time analysis. The senators encouraged the CDC to assist state and local health systems to modernize their data collection and sharing methods.
The bipartisan senators said the $1 billion in funding provided to the CDC this week is designated to public health data surveillance, analytics infrastructure modernization, test reporting and workforce support.
The lawmakers called for a data collection system “at a minimum” to include aggregated case information from state and local health departments, physicians, hospitals, labs and coroners. The data reporting also needs to publish rates of hospitalization broken down by underlying health conditions and treatments for patients with each underlying health condition and their outcomes.
The CDC should also report rates of intensive care unit admissions, duration of stay and recovery and mortality data. “Appropriate” demographic information is to be included as well.
“This is neither the first infectious disease pandemic in the United States, nor will it be the last,” the senators wrote. “Now is the time to establish the infrastructure for real-time, robust reporting, to prepare us for a potential second wave of COVID-19 and any future pandemic."
“Only with robust near real-time reporting can our nation effectively respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics,” they added.
The U.S. has confirmed at least 867,459 coronavirus cases in the country, leading to at least 49,804 fatalities, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.