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Removing CDC from tracking COVID-19 outbreaks poses risk to public health, says expert

16-Jul-2020 8:35 AM EDT, by Virginia Tech

With cases of the coronavirus spiking in many areas nationwide, public health officials caution that funneling COVID-19 hospitalization data to the HHS rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could slow efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia Tech expert Lisa M. Lee says that public health surveillance is a comprehensive system that involves much more that counting things.  

“As the former chief science officer of the CDC’s public health surveillance center and the lead editor of the leading textbook on public health surveillance, it’s a bad idea to circumvent the decades of expertise in surveillance science that CDC has accumulated.” 

“Public health surveillance, like all local public health activities, is the responsibility of the state and local health departments. CDC funds states to perform public health surveillance according to state-of-the-art standards and consistent with all other state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments.” 

“The CDC plays a critical role in collating, analyzing, and communicating the national picture, which states cannot do on their own. Removing CDC from this system will result in a loss of completeness, validity, and, most importantly, utility of the data.” 

About Lee

Lisa M. Lee is a public health expert specializing in infectious disease epidemiology and public health ethics. She also serves as the associate vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech, where she leads the division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance. Widely published in both public health science and ethics, she is also the lead editor of "Principles and Practice of Public Health Surveillance" (OUP 2010), a widely used text in schools of public health. More here.

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