Coronavirus Cases Tested in U.S. Removed From CDC Website, According to Congressman: 'American People Deserve Answers'

A congressman has written to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after it appeared the agency had removed U.S. data on the outbreak of the deadly new coronavirus from its website.

Mark Pocan, who serves Wisconsin's Second District, wrote to director of the CDC Dr. Robert Redfield on Monday to express his concern that the national public health institute seemed to have stopped reporting how many Americans had been tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Until Sunday night, the Congressman wrote, the CDC publicly reported on its website the number of cases in the U.S. involving individuals who had travelled to a COVID-19 hotspot, the number of cases involving person-to-person spread, the total number tested for the virus, and total deaths.

"Inexplicably, today, the CDC's public webpage dedicated to COVID-19 data no longer displays how many persons have been tested for, or who have died from COVID-19. I would like to know why," Pocan wrote.

On Tuesday, the "Cases in the U.S." page of the CDC website which was updated on March 2 stated two people had died in 43 cases. However, the death toll on Tuesday had hit six, as shown in the map by Statista below, and a dashboard maintained by Johns Hopkins University on the disease stated the U.S. had 105 cases.

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A map by Statista shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of March 3.

Pocan's demand comes as the U.S. attempts to control the spread of the new coronavirus, which has killed over 3,100 people worldwide in more than 90,000 cases since it first started sickening people in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province, late last year.

Testing for the virus has proved a hurdle in the U.S., with faulty kits sent out last month compounding criticism over a lack of capacity for screening suspected COVID-19 patients. That prompted the health secretary to announce over the weekend that a further 75,000 people can be screened by the CDC.

"Americans are dying. We deserve to know how many Americans have perished from COVID-19, and we deserve to know how many people have been tested for it," Pocan said.

The Congressman went on to quote Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who told CBS Face the Nation on Sunday that ramping up testing will mean more positive results are on the horizon. "Right now, there's probably hundreds or low thousands of cases [in the U.S. that aren't reported yet]," he said.

Pocan went on: "Knowing that CDC testing is keeping pace with the likely number of cases is imperative to maintaining public trust. With that in mind, when will you return to publicly reporting the total number of deaths and tested persons on your website?"

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek.

On Monday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar told a press conference that Americans should "prepare for the worst but hope for the best" over the COVID-19 outbreak.

"As we have emphasized for some time now, we all need to prepare for the potential need," Azar said. "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best."

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House coronavirus task force said: "The risk to the American people for the coronavirus remains low."

Sanjaya Senanayake, professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University told Newsweek: "The stopping of publishing those figures is surprising, but perhaps there is a good reason for it.

"During an outbreak of this scale where the general populace is worried, it is really important for governments to make the people feel that they are being kept abreast of various aspects of the outbreak, especially pertaining to their own country. So it is a good idea for a government to give as much information as it feels it responsibly can."

Senanayake added: "This will help maintain a trusting relationship with the public which will be very important if the outbreak gets worse, so as to minimize panic while keeping the public informed with information that they feel is reliable."

This article has been updated with comment from Sanjaya Senanayake.

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A researcher works in a lab that is developing testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus at Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation on February 28, 2020 in Nutley, New Jersey. The facility develops novel therapies for some of the world's most difficult diseases. At least 53 countries have reported cases of infection. Kena Betancur/Getty Images