The intelligence community has warned for years that pandemic disease was a national-security threat on par with that of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and cyberattacks. It’s essential to increase American capacity to detect these events, contain them, and manufacture reliable countermeasures.
The Health and Human Services Department acknowledged some of these challenges last week when it announced a change in how hospitals report Covid data to the government. HHS bypassed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lead agency for collecting, analyzing and sharing data on emerging infectious threats. The move reflected frustration with the CDC’s capacity to analyze and share information, which relies on systems so antiquated that some hospitals had to fax in results.
According to my sources, the final straw came when the CDC told administration officials that it was unable to report the age breakdowns for those being hospitalized for Covid until the end of August. But rather than reform the CDC’s system, HHS is trying to re-create the data set using private contractors, a less than ideal strategy. In what appears to be a moment of pique, the CDC said it would stop posting its analysis altogether—a move it later recanted.