Senators Demand Info On $10.2M Deal For COVID-19 Database

By Sarah Martinson
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Law360 (July 23, 2020, 4:33 PM EDT) -- Democratic senators pressed a Pennsylvania technology company about its $10.2 million deal with the federal government to collect COVID-19 data from hospitals, saying they are "alarmed" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will no longer be in charge.

In a Wednesday letter, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said they wanted to know how TeleTracking Technologies Inc. won the six-month contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and whether the coronavirus-related metrics, including hospitals' patient numbers and ventilator usage rates, would be made available to the public.

The CDC has been the national provider of health information from more than 25,000 health care facilities across the country for 15 years and will no longer be responsible for collecting data on the pandemic, the lawmakers said.

"We are troubled by this misguided and dangerous decision, which sidelines our nation's leading public health experts and needlessly creates new reporting systems for those on the front lines of this pandemic," they said.

The senators asked TeleTracking to inform them by Aug. 3 if it competed for the six-month contract that expires Sept. 30 or was awarded the deal on a no-competition basis, and whether it will be using foreign subcontractors or suppliers to fulfill the contract.

The lawmakers also sought a complete copy of TeleTracking's contract with HHS and the names of all the contacts it made with the Trump administration before being awarded the deal in April.

HHS posted a notice on its website earlier this month informing hospitals that they should submit coronavirus-related data on a daily basis to TeleTracking. Starting July 15, hospitals were told to stop sending data to the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network, according to the notice.

The notice said that data would be used to assist Trump's COVID-19 Task Force with making decisions on how to allocate resources to ensure that the pandemic is addressed in a coordinated way.

A spokesperson for HHS told Law360 in a Thursday statement that the pandemic requires access to real-time data that TeleTracking can provide in one to three days, whereas the NHSN would take weeks to collect the data.

"This data collection change has zero effect on CDC's access to data, and HHS continues to rely heavily on the CDC's experts in analyzing the data," the spokesperson said. 

Representatives for the CDC and TeleTracking did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.  

--Editing by Adam LoBelia.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a comment from HHS.

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