July 21, 2020

HHS on Monday launched a new online portal to share coronavirus-related data reported by U.S. hospitals, and President Trump announced the White House will resume holding briefings on America's coronavirus epidemic amid surges in new infections throughout the country.

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US new coronavirus cases surpass 3.8M, deaths near 141K

The moves come as U.S. officials as of Tuesday morning reported 3,844,800 total cases of the new coronavirus since the country's epidemic first began—up from 3,784,900 cases reported as of Monday morning.

Data from the New York Times shows that Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Washington, D.C.; and 41 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

As a result of spikes in new coronavirus cases in Texas, Richard Cortez, a judge in Texas' Hidalgo County, on Monday issued a new stay-at-home order that would require county residents to shelter at home from this Wednesday through midnight on Aug. 5. However, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office has said Cortez's stay-at-home order is unenforceable, because current statewide orders issued by Abbot do not allow local government to enforce their own stay-at-home requirements, the Texas Tribune reports.

John Wittman, a spokesperson for Abbott, on Monday said Cortez's "order has no enforcement mechanism, which makes it simply a recommendation for those to stay home if they can, which … Abbott supports." Wittman added, "However, this order does not force businesses to shut down in the Rio Grande Valley."

According to the Texas Tribune, Cortez did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Times' data shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in Guam and six states: Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.

Arizona, Delaware, and Maine saw their average daily numbers of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the Times' data.

While growth in America's national coronavirus-related death rate had declined in June, data has shown that rate's been rising in recent weeks.

According to the Times' data, Puerto Rico and 26 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported deaths linked to the coronavirus rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Overall, officials as of Tuesday morning had reported a total of 140,904 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 140,373 deaths reported as of Monday morning.

Trump says White House will resume coronavirus briefings

As America's coronavirus epidemic continues to resurge, Trump on Monday announced that the White House's coronavirus task force will resume holding public briefings.

Trump had suspended the once-regular briefings in April, but said he now plans to restart the briefings on Tuesday, as "Florida, Texas, [and] … other places" experience "flare-ups" in new coronavirus cases. "I think it's a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccines, with the therapeutics, and, generally speaking, where we are. I'll do it at 5 o'clock, like we were doing. We had a good slot. And a lot of people were watching," Trump said.

According to the Washington Post, a senior Trump administration official said the briefings are likely to occur multiple times each week and often will feature only Trump, unlike the White House's previous coronavirus briefings, which often featured Trump and public health officials. "The plan is for them to be [Trump] and to keep them short and tight," the senior official reportedly told the Post.

HHS launches new public portal with hospital-reported coronavirus data

Separately, HHS on Monday launched a new online portal that restores public access to coronavirus data reported by hospitals to the Trump administration.

HHS on July 10 issued guidance directing hospitals to send data regarding their patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, to a central HHS database instead of to CDC, as hospitals had been doing for several months. HHS issued the new guidance after Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, and others raised concerns that hospitals were not adequately reporting their data to CDC and that CDC was behind in making the data available to the public.

According to Politico, as the new reporting guidance took effect, CDC's coronavirus database was briefly taken down, leaving the public without access to the coronavirus data hospitals were reporting to the Trump administration for about one day. However, HHS on Monday began to publish the data on a new website called HHS Protect.

HHS officials said the new system will feature more data than CDC's previous coronavirus database had displayed. For example, officials said HHS Protect will collect data from about 4,500 of the country's 6,200 hospitals, whereas CDC's system collected data from about 3,000 U.S. hospitals.

"We're showing you a data set that is more robust and has more coverage than anything we have published, historically, before," HHS CIO Jose Arrieta said Monday. Arrieta added that hospitals and researchers also will be able to access the raw data collected by HHS, and hospitals will be able to incorporate the data into their own dashboards. "We think that this level of transparency will not only help create and end develop some of the scientific minds of the future, but it creates maximum transparency for American citizens," Arrieta said.

Further, HHS officials said new system will protect the data's integrity through a number of safeguards, including a mechanism that will track all changes made to the data (Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 7/21; Olorunnipa/Dawsey, Washington Post, 7/20; Allassan, Axios, 7/20; Roubein et al., Politico, 7/20; Weixel, The Hill, 7/20; Ault, Medscape, 7/21; New York Times, 7/21; Champagne, Texas Tribune, 7/20).

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