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Trump’s not so bad: the disappearing hospital data during a pandemic edition

Written By: - Date published: 1:51 pm, July 18th, 2020 - 48 comments
Categories: covid-19, Donald Trump, us politics - Tags: , , ,

There is this idea on both the left and the right that Trump’s not so bad.  Minimising or being in denial of what is happening in the US risks helping the rise of fascism. You can read the original post here, or the series here.

This one’s been brewing in the past week,

NPR report,

The Trump Administration has mandated that hospitals sidestep the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send critical information about COVID-19 hospitalizations and equipment to a different federal database.

From the start of the pandemic, the CDC has collected data on COVID-19 hospitalizations, availability of intensive care beds and personal protective equipment. But hospitals must now report that information to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC.

The change sparked concerns among infectious disease and health care experts that the administration was hobbling the ability of the nation’s public health agency to gather and analyze crucial data in the midst of a pandemic.

The new system was set up by TeleTracking, a private company based in Pennsylvania, which was awarded the $10 million contract in a non-competitive bid in April. In June, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate health committee wrote a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield, asking why TeleTracking was awarded the contract on a non-competitive basis.

“It’s entirely unclear why the Trump Administration has asked states and hospitals to upend their reporting systems in the middle of a pandemic — in 48 hours nonetheless — without a single explanation as to why this new system is better or necessary,” Murray wrote in a statement to NPR. “The Trump Administration is going to have to give a full justification for this, because until they do, it’s hard to see how this step won’t further sideline public health experts and obscure the severity of this crisis.”

My prediction: this particular issue of covid data will settle down enough that people will adjust. Trump’s administration do the extreme, then dial it back a bit so people feel a sense of relief that it’s not that bad, but it is still really bad. This is classic building fascism process.

The confusion around what is going on is also a tool here. When applied as it has been for the past 4 years, people can’t keep up. The overwhelm of confusion and transgression of cultural and political norms on a daily basis prevents effective resistance. It’s hard to tell from this distance how much is intentional and how much is just stupid, but in case it’s not clear, the administration being incompetent serves their purpose.

The thing that fucks me off here, apart from the obvious, is that I remember the conversations in 2016 about how people’s reactions to Trump’s ‘unconventional’ ways of doing things were them just not liking approaches that weren’t middle class or conventional. But this shit right here was predictable. We have conventions for good reasons, including that humans need ways of doing things that are reliable, relatable, and functional.

For people that weren’t busy making out that Trump’s not so bad, it was easy to see that breaking down political conventions right at the start was  going to serve an entirely different agenda.

Using private companies to manage public health data is neoliberal. Doing that suddenly in the middle of a pandemic, in a highly dysfunctional and disturbing way, and that removes public agency, is neoliberalism on steroids. Along with it also serving the fascist agenda this means it isn’t comparable with any of the alternatives. But Trump’s not so bad, right?

48 comments on “Trump’s not so bad: the disappearing hospital data during a pandemic edition ”

  1. adam 1

    So is trump not that bad – depends if you see imperialism and economic terrorism down the barrel of a gun as a bad thing or not. If you going to agree that it is, then be an adult and admit that obama, bush, clinton, bush and reagan have all been of the same ilk.

    This is not somthing in isolation. This is the extension of the same shit we been living with our whole lives.

    • weka 1.1

      false dichotomy. I'm sure Andre or someone will be along to argue the other side of the dichotomy so your side can be reinforced, but really I'm hoping we get past that some time soon.

      • Andre 1.1.1

        Andre or someone will be along to argue the other side

        Nah. When I choose to join an argument, it's usually because there might be something there that might lead persuadables into some weird places. In this case, weka, you've already laid out the problem in clear detail, so I don't see much to add to what's already there.

        I'm not interested in a bash-fest for the sake of it with someone that's unpersuadable in themself, and hasn't presented any kind of actual argument.

        I am a little surprised you avoided adding in something about what's going on in Portland – unidentifiable and unaccountable federal thugs disappearing people off the streets while they are legally protesting. The local and state government have asked the feds to remove their thugs and leave citizens going about lawful activity alone, but the fed thugs keep thugging, on the basis of an executive order from President Le Twat, C'est Moi.


        • weka

          thinking about a stand alone post for that one.

          • Andre

            Gonna be a lot more shit like that ramping up to November and January next year. If not four years beyond that, given the "he's not so bad" types may still get their way.

            How busy writing and moderating posts do you wanna be?

            • weka

              I'm currently pleasantly pleased that TS isn't being overtaken by the US election 😉

              • Andre

                You have no idea how much self-restraint I'm applying. Expect the floodgates to burst sometime late September.

                • weka

                  Well done 🙂 If it gets to be a lot, I expect we will run dedicated posts for it. But I suspect most Standardistas are more focused on the NZ election.

        • joe90

          WTF are the NRA and all those freedumb-loving gun nuts who vowed to oppose government tyranny and overreach?

        • SPC

          These were the same goons used in DC, a group that Trump and his boy Wolf can send around the states (who control the National Guard) at their whim – or is that Democrat Governor state by Democrat Governor state.

          Wolf and Barr are a disgrace to their offices.

          • Andre

            Some of the agencies supplying the goons are the same, but Kim Jong Orange only has authority to deploy the National Guard and other military in Washington DC, not in any states.

            That's why it has to be thugs from the likes of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (part of Homeland Security), Customs and Border Patrol (also part of Homeland Security), US Marshals (Department of Justice) etc.

            Those agencies are authorised to operate in states under federal control. Federal control meaning they act at the direction of the executive branch. That normally means members of Cabinet with a degree of independence and autonomy, but right now have been perverted into mindless appendages of Darth Hater.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      This is not somthing in isolation. This is the extension of the same shit we been living with our whole lives.

      The US has been a rogue state for decades. Now its failed political system, which was designed to give the US its own aristocracy in their newly wealthy capitalists, is failing just like all other aristocracies.

  2. Clearly he can't be all that bad if the Democrats are anything to go by… the Democratic-controlled House Armed Services Committeeto approved his massive $740.5 billion military spending package just 2 weeks ago..

    • weka 2.1

      oh do fuck off. Maybe you didn't understand the post, or read it. If you can't make an effort to comment in response to what the post was about then don't use the post for your Trump's not so bad lines, take them to Open Mike.

  3. Peter 3

    In the US people get very concerned about the idea of being made to wear masks. (They're made to wear car seat belts but that's different apparently.)

    Anyway, the situation described here is happening and militarized federal agents are deployed to the streets of Portland a couple of weeks after people were attacked on the streets to clear the way for a Trump-Bible-church photo op.

    Tell me the country isn't going to Hell in a handcart.

    Persuade me that the answer to the imperialism and economic terrorism of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Reagan is having a deranged madman in charge who wants to be Kim Jong-il.


    • Brigid 3.1

      " the answer to the imperialism and economic terrorism of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Reagan is having a deranged madman in charge"

      I don't think it's being offered as the answer, but the legacy.

      What I wonder is, does the US not have a functioning opposition? How is it that the neanderthal can hand this vitally important data collection to private enterprise, and in the middle of a pandemic that's out of control, with little comment from the opposition.

  4. Incognito 4

    Yup, it’s a common technique and also used in calls for donations, for example. People are inclined to meet you somewhere in the middle so you have to make sure that you (can) shift the perceived middle closer to the point where you want it to be.


    • Andre 4.1

      I presume that's in response to this paragraph of the OP?:

      My prediction: this particular issue of covid data will settle down enough that people will adjust. Trump’s administration do the extreme, then dial it back a bit so people feel a sense of relief that it’s not that bad, but it is still really bad. This is classic building fascism process.

      • Incognito 4.1.1

        Yup. By making extreme options seem more palatable, you can shift public (voter) opinion to meet you at a point that you decide and vice versa (it works both ways). The result is that half-extreme (‘not so bad’) options become accepted and normalised. It’s like the Overton Window. When Trump and everything he says and does is the ‘new normal’ and ‘he ain’t so bad, after all’ he will have achieved his goal(s) and he becomes ‘the ultimate, best, and most glorious winner ever’, a winner who will take all, let there be no doubt about it. IMHO.

  5. Dennis Frank 5

    Here's another look at the situation: https://theconversation.com/us-coronavirus-data-will-now-go-straight-to-the-white-house-heres-what-this-means-for-the-world-142814

    Control of information flow has always been part of retaining power. Not surprising that Trump would have a go. Key question: is it constitutional? Look to the Republican establishment for push-back if opinion leader believe the answer is no.

    The Lincoln Project has emerged as an organised fight-back by the rightist establishment, but judicial push-back would be even more of a problem for him. Too soon for fascist framing to seem realistic…

  6. Byd0nz 6

    Hope Trump wins again because its the best way to destroy America internaly, let them destroy each other instead of imposing their shit on other countries. For all that though, Trump hasnt pulled the trigger on anyone yet where as the Dems are good at making war, Im sure they would have jumped into Iran at the behest of the Israli facists. Go Trump, destroy your shit land.

    • joe90 6.1

      When the dirt-bag left converges with the scum-bag right, it's hard to tell the difference.


      • Dennis Frank 6.1.1

        For instance Trump's decision to campaign against Soros. You know, that demon organiser of globalisation that the hard left got into organised demonising of, back around 20 years ago, or maybe that was in the '90s. https://theconversation.com/how-donald-trump-will-try-to-scapegoat-george-soros-to-win-re-election-140146

        Also I recall earlier when all the progressives got so starry-eyed about peace love & understanding that they started issuing media stories about how the UN was going to bring in an enlightened world government. Just a phase, but leftists did actually believe in the UN in those days. Obviously Trump never forgot. He voted Democrat in the '70s.

  7. Incognito 7

    There have always been reasons why Covid-19 death stats cannot and should not be taken at face value, even without an obfuscating Administration trying to cover up.

    Here’s a good and very recent write-up on this in The Economist: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/07/15/tracking-covid-19-excess-deaths-across-countries

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    The new system was set up by TeleTracking, a private company based in Pennsylvania, which was awarded the $10 million contract in a non-competitive bid in April.

    Ten million for a brand new, never been tested, reporting and database system across all of the US?

    Yeah, that's not enough. Not by a long shot. I'd say that its been set up to fail and done in such a way so that everyone has plausible deniability.

    The US is gone. It's no longer just a rogue state but also a failed state.

    • Anne 8.1

      The US is gone. It's no longer just a rogue state but also a failed state.

      The so-called Super-Power is no longer a super power. Imo, it hasn't been for a long time.

      First the American people in their state of ignorance and confusion elect a despotic madman for president and the rest follows as surely as night follows day.

      We are watching as the world draws ever closer to the most dangerous time in human history yet our respective leaders turn away and pretend it isn't happening.

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1

        The so-called Super-Power is no longer a super power.

        That was proved the first time that they invaded Iraq but the Administration at the time realised that they couldn't hold and left and so no one really noticed. The second Bush Admin tried to hod on and the rest of the world realised that the US simply didn't have the capability to do so.

        China have taken that knowledge and run – its why they're now claiming that which isn't theirs and the proof is the US is doing nothing to stop them. And that's a failure of all of us in the West in holding the US as an umbrella against the bad guys. The rest of us don't know how to act against an aggressive state without the US leading.

        First the American people in their state of ignorance and confusion elect a despotic madman for president and the rest follows as surely as night follows day.

        Its been happening for awhile but the USians, being hung up on how great they are, didn't notice. Hell, their constitution was written to ensure that the rich stayed in power despite the nation being a democracy.

        We are watching as the world draws ever closer to the most dangerous time in human history yet our respective leaders turn away and pretend it isn't happening.

        The world leaders do what they're trained to do – kowtow to power and the power resides with the rich who don't want the governments of the world acting to curtail their scourging of the world.

    • Tricledrown 8.2

      Remember what Trump called Africa he is now turning the US into a shithole.

  9. Hiding the numbers is just the latest attempt to cover up the disaster that has been Trumps corona virus response. It should come as no surprise to anyone, especially considering how Attorney Barr has been interfering in the judiciary to protect the president from those offices and agencies looking into his finances and actions.

  10. Stuart Munro 10

    I think the nub of the particular issue is that the public, and the media that are supposed to serve them, have become exceptionally poor at dealing with corruption.

    Using private companies to manage public health data is neoliberal. Doing that suddenly in the middle of a pandemic, in a highly dysfunctional and disturbing way, and that removes public agency, is neoliberalism on steroids.

    Using private companies that are dysfunctional is by no means confined to the US, but it is at odds with the putative benefit for which neoliberalism was adopted in the first place – the healthy commercial discipline that was to displace the flabby culture of public service.

    In this instance Trump is exploiting the dysfunction for political advantage – but the solution within the reigning paradigm ought to be the appearance of those black-hearted gentlemen, the liquidators, who, citing failure of specific performance, should be exercising the penalty clauses that due diligence surely builds into into every public private contract.

    Trump is by no means unique in not exercising such provisions, for reasons that can loosely be described as political. Delays to the Transmission Gully construction for example, ought to be similarly subject to contractual discipline. The real failure of neoliberalism is that there is little or no chance of that happening – the use of private partners has introduced as much or more flabbiness as existed under the state management that preceded it.

  11. SPC 11

    The reporting system in the US was substandard and in urgent need of an upgrade.

    “The data is moving slower than the disease.”

    Fax machines…. all pandemic response needs to nationwide on-line and ID based. A nation is without security otherwise

    On average, his office is getting all the information it needs about a test result 11 days after the test is taken — far too late to make contact tracing worthwhile. He has been advising those in the area with virus symptoms to assume they are positive, since the tests take so long to come back.

    Dr. Frieden noted that in other countries, like Britain and Canada, patient data travels with a unique number that identifies whom it belongs to. The United States tried to set up a similar system in the mid-1990s, but it died after Congress passed legislation barring the federal government from creating the new ID numbers

    They left their nation defenceless.


    There are two issues, upgrading their system, and whether the data goes from CDC onto NHS or DHS onto CDC.

    Given the NHS boss is a political appointee and this is an election year the politics in play is all too obvious.

    • McFlock 11.1

      I mean, what about the US response to this pandemic makes you think they privatised the data system in order to improve it?

      • SPC 11.1.1

        The system they had was shite. But yeah if they were going to improve it they would get rid of that 1990's legislation and allowed nationwide reporting using health ID as part of an on-line rollout.

        • McFlock

          local test results jamming the fax machine are a different issue to a universal ID.

          either way, this move by the administration is simply to cloak the numbers. It's fucked.

    • Draco T Bastard 11.2

      The United States tried to set up a similar system in the mid-1990s, but it died after Congress passed legislation barring the federal government from creating the new ID numbers

      Which, you can almost be certain, would have been shouted down by the Evangelicals and other radical Christians as the mark of the beast.

  12. SPC 12

    The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, beginning on Wednesday, send all coronavirus patient information to a central database in Washington — a move that has alarmed public health experts who fear the data will be distorted for political gain.

    Department of Health and Human Services and not the C.D.C., will collect daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, how many beds and ventilators are available, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.

    Officials said the change should help ease data gathering and assist the White House coronavirus task force in allocating scarce supplies like personal protective gear and the drug remdesivir.

    “Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust,” said Nicole Lurie, who served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response under former President Barack Obama. “It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like C.D.C. to do its basic job.” news of the change came as a shock inside the C.D.C., which has long been responsible for gathering public health data,

    The dispute exposes the vast gaps in the government’s ability to collect and manage health data — an antiquated system at best, experts say.


  13. Peter 13

    I just looked at the calendar – July 18th. Why are they updating their public health data system? I thought it was going to be all over by Easter and that was in April wasn't it?

  14. Dennis Frank 14

    Starting to look more like a bureaucratic shambles than fascism: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-coronavirus-data-mess_n_5f11fc48c5b619afc4014697

    There are conflicting accounts surrounding the data’s disappearance. News outlets initially suggested that Trump’s administration had directed the CDC to wipe the figures from its website. In interviews with Politico, however, officials at HHS placed the blame squarely on the CDC itself: “No one came out of our conversations believing that CDC was going to stop doing analysis,” an anonymous HHS official with direct knowledge of the situation told the outlet. “All it did was feed into this narrative that we were cutting off the CDC when that’s not what happened at all.”

    Nearly a week’s worth of data on hospital capacity is still missing. While the CDC restored the dashboards that had been taken down, as of Friday afternoon, they had not been updated beyond July 14. The result, Panchadsaram said, is that researchers are unable to provide a full picture of how hospitals are faring during the crisis. More than 30 states are recording increases in cases, and the U.S. recorded a record 75,600 new infections on Thursday, according to a New York Times database.

    Panchadsaram said he does not believe the shift in policy was malicious but was rather intended to streamline data and make things easier on hospitals. The result, however, was that it kept key coronavirus data from the public. Panchadsaram hopes that HHS uses this as an opportunity to figure out how to share all of the data it has with the American public.

    “Don’t just give us back these one to two indicators, share everything you’re seeing,” he said. “Put us on the same page as you.”

    There is more the administration has opted to keep to itself as it pushes for schools and states to get back to normal. An internal White House document obtained by the Center for Public Integrity shows that 18 states are in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases, with more than 100 per 100,000 people last week.

  15. Wayne 15

    I note the World o Meter site does not have any data from Sweden since July 2. Very odd.

    I am inclined too go with Dennis Frank on this. Unlikely to be a real fascist conspiracy. It would very extremely difficult for the administration to convince officials in the Health Department to conceal data. There would be an instant whistle blower situation.

    Also $10 million seems extraordinarily light for a national database.

    • Andre 15.1

      An under-resourced, utterly clueless, incompetent, bungled fascist attempt to control information in order to conceal unfavourables, that never had a chance of really being successful, is still an attempted illiberal attack on the general public by malignant government officials.

    • Pingao 15.2

      Wayne – for the data on Worldometer, Sweden seem to add their data every few days over the last 2 or 3 weeks on the Coronavirus "live" site.


    • Incognito 15.3

      Look more carefully and click on the Swedish source link.

  16. Treetop 16

    The death toll from Covid-19 in the US will never be known. The information on death certificates would also need to be scrutinised.

    This can be said about other countries with a high death toll.

    What are the qualities that a leader needs to have in order to manage the social disruption that Covid-19 causes?

    • McFlock 16.1

      We'll have some fair estimates.

      The tabulations won't just include covid on the death certificate. In countries where it runs rampant, the number of death certificates compared to previous years will be the other end of the count.

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