CDC fails because it can’t track COVID-19 on planes

BILLIONThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses outdated tools to track and analyze how Covid-19 spread on planes, hampering the agency’s ability to contain the outbreak, a government watchdog said.

Air travel is a constant public health concern, as sick people can board a plane in one country and land a few hours later in another, rapidly spreading the disease. over a great distance. As a result, the CDC’s contact tracing capabilities have long been considered critical to the agency’s disease surveillance and response.

But in one report announced Monday, the Government Accountability Office said its technology tools were old, slow and prone to problems. “CDC is not positioned to effectively analyze and disseminate data to inform public health policies and respond to disease threats,” the GAO said.

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The report comes as CDC prepares to share findings from a internal review response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 1 million Americans. Officials within the CDC and from other parts of the government that work with the agency have raised longstanding frustrations with the way the health agency collects and manages data, Bloomberg reported in May.

According to the GAO, when tracking airline passengers, many data entry tasks are performed manually, and it can take up to two weeks for CDC to gather additional information to address errors or gaps in the data. provided by the airlines. At that point, information was in fact outdated, the GAO said, and “delays may contribute to broader community spread, as potentially exposed passengers may become difficult to locate and notify, or they may become have symptoms or infected during this time. “

According to the GAO, the “outdated data management system” was the cause of the agency’s inability to quickly and accurately identify passengers who had come into contact with an infected person on a flight.

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The GAO recommends that CDC redesign its system or create one that allows for broader, more effective surveillance.

To conduct the study, congressional auditors reviewed documents, federal regulations, orders, comments, and public health data. They also interviewed officials from the CDC, Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The CDC said in a statement that the agency appreciates the GAO’s report, and it has also raised challenges around collecting the data needed to inform public health policy.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is working with the Biden administration and Congress to improve the agency’s data capabilities, the agency said.

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