From the beginning of the crisis in the United States, there have been numerous reports of the danger faced by healthcare workers dealing directly with COVID-19 patients, with the frustration they face in dealing with a disease where nothing seems to work, and the absolute exhaustion from day after day of overrun emergency rooms and ICUs. What there has not been is an outcry from hospitals over problems in recording data.
However, as The Washington Post reports, that’s what the White House is proposing. In a letter slated to go out this week, Trump will ask governors to “consider” sending the guard to hospitals to “help improve data collection.” As the president of the American Hospital Association states, this “makes no sense.” If the National Guard is going to take a more active role in handing the coronavirus pandemic, double-checking hospital data does not really seem like the best use of their skills and abilities.
If the whole idea isn’t suspicious enough to begin with, this plan coincides with a new directive that would eliminate sending data to the CDC. Instead, data will be sent through state agencies and federal contractors to new central federal reporting from HHS.
The idea of using the National Guard for data review has apparently come up a number of times in the last few weeks. That includes at meetings between hospital leaders and the White House in both June and July. Hospital officials ignored the idea because “it’s silly.” But not everyone let the idea slip so easily, one industry official called the discussion “an offhand threat,” directed at hospitals White House coronavirus task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. Birx complained that hospitals were not properly reporting data, while hospital officials said that it was HHS that had issues.
While the current draft of the letter to governors asks them to consider using the National Guard, an earlier draft directed them to deploy the guard to oversee hospital data. However, there is little doubt that, no matter which verb is deployed in the final draft, governors eager to please Trump will treat this as a command. That means that clerks in hospitals in the states which are right now at the center of the spike in new cases, are likely to find someone in uniform looking over their shoulders as they report information on cases and deaths … to make sure that they’re doing it right.