Just as the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 approaches new highs in some parts of the country, hospital data in Kansas and Missouri is suddenly incomplete or missing.
The Missouri Hospital Association reports that it no longer has access to the data it uses to guide state coronavirus mitigation efforts, and Kansas officials say their hospital data may be delayed.
The Trump administration this week directed hospitals to change how they report data to the federal government and how that data will be made available.
In an email, Missouri Hospital Association spokesperson Dave Dillon called the move "a major disruption."
"All evidence suggests that Missouri's numbers are headed in the wrong direction," Dillon said. "And, for now, we will have very limited situational awareness. That's all very bad news."
The absence of the data will make it harder for health and public officials, as well as the general public, to understand how the virus is spreading.
"It's hugely problematic," said Dr. Karen Maddox , a public health researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. "The only way that we know where things are going up and where things are going down and where we need to be putting resources and where we need to be planning is because of those data."
The White House instructed hospitals to report data to the Department of Health and Human Services through a new system created by a Pennsylvania-based company, TeleTracking, instead of to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The directive came as a surprise to hospitals, according to Kansas Hospital Association spokesperson Cindy Samuelson .
"From our perspective, these changes are big," Samuelson said. "We only found out Tuesday, and we had to update the data by Wednesday night — so, less than 48 hours."
The Missouri Hospital Association currently does not have access to the new HHS system, according to Dillon. He said the new system is also significantly different from the CDC system.
"The new datasets for reporting are not identical and in several cases are ill-defined," Dillon said. "That has complicated hospitals' efforts."
In the wake of the announcement, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services posted a notice on its website this week that the daily and weekly updates on hospitals, including the numbers of people hospitalized and the availability of standard hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators, would be temporarily halted.
"Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) and the State of Missouri will be unable to access critical hospitalization data during the transition. While we are working to collect interim data, situational awareness will be limited," the notice on the department’s website says . Related Stories
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