CDC plans to stop reporting suspected COVID cases to ease burden

Riley Griffin and Drew Armstrong
Bloomberg News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to simplify the COVID-19 hospital data it collects as the demands of the pandemic evolve and some assembled information has become outdated or redundant.

The agency is likely to stop collecting data from hospitals on suspected COVID-19 cases that haven’t been confirmed by tests, for example, and may also wind down federal reporting from rehabilitation and mental health facilities that aren’t major intake points for virus cases, according to a draft of the plan that was viewed by Bloomberg News.

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Early in the pandemic, when COVID-19 tests were sparse and it could take days to confirm cases, the U.S. encouraged hospitals to report all likely infections. But since most hospitals now test all patients on admission, suspect cases can be confirmed or ruled out within hours, making the data not particularly useful.

COVID-19 guidance for hospital reporting is regularly reviewed by U.S. health officials and has been revised several times already amid changes to the best ways to track the pandemic. The latest recommendations are in their final stages of review, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named as the details aren’t yet public.

The changes would only apply to the federal collection of data, and states can still ask health care facilities to report other types of information, according to one of the people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The Atlanta-based CDC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agency is also suggesting that the U.S. stop collecting COVID-19 vaccination data from hospitals because it isn’t required to be reported, isn’t widely used, and hospital workers are required to report their vaccine status via a different mechanism.

Health officials are also considering whether or not to decrease the cadence in which hospitals report data, such as collecting data only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or collecting it once weekly.