The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) website has been showing information about the number of cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States since shortly after the outbreak began. But one day after the Trump administration took control of the information, the public-facing trackers disappeared from the site.
As CNBC reported, on Wednesday, the Trump administration ordered hospitals to send their data on the number available hospital beds and intensive care unit beds directly to a database controlled by the Department of Health and Human Services. Previously, this data was going to the CDC.
They said that the decision was made to streamline the process of getting data in real-time. While many experts agree that the former system was in need of an overhaul because it wasn't designed with a pandemic in mind, some worried that the change could mean less transparency.
On Thursday, the data about hospital capacity, which had previously been publically available via the CDC site, was removed. Ryan Panchadsaram, who helps manage a website that tracks coronavirus data said that when he tried to go to the site to view the trackers, they were missing.
"We were surprised because the modules that we normally go to were empty. The data wasn't available and not there," he told CNBC. "There was no warning."
Panchadsaram decried the move, saying that shifting the data to simplify the process makes sense, but that the numbers still need to be made available to the public. Now, he and others working to analyze the spread of the virus can't present a complete picture of the coronavirus as it moves through the U.S.
Dr. Jen Kates at the Kaiser Family Foundation said that the resource was critical for a variety of people and expressed concern that the data is being politicized.
Currently, users get an alert that reads:
"Data displayed on this page was submitted directly to CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) and does not include data submitted to other entities contracted by or within the federal government."
According to CNBC, HHS spokesman Michael Caputo promised to order to CDC to restore the trackers.
"HHS is committed to being transparent with the American public about the information it is collecting on the coronavirus," he said. "Therefore, HHS has directed CDC to re-establish the coronavirus dashboards it withdrew from the public on Wednesday."
The Trump administration has been criticized for its response to the pandemic, with some people arguing that the government is ignoring expert health advice in order to downplay the severity of the pandemic. The president recently retweeted a message claiming that the CDC and doctors were lying about the coronavirus in order to influence his chances of being reelected in November.