The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s system to track potentially infected air travelers went offline during the early part of the pandemic, causing local officials to worry that coronavirus infections would increase without good data, according to The New York Times.
Local health officials contacted the CDC to express concern that infected travelers could begin mixing with the general population after the agency briefly stopped collecting passenger data in February, the NYT reported Wednesday. The CDC reportedly told officials to allow passengers coming from China and elsewhere into the United States.
“It was insane,” Dr. Sharon Balter, a director at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told The NYT, referring to the alleged inadequacies of the system CDC used to track passenger data. (RELATED: REPORT: More Than 40,000 People Have Arrived In The US From China Since Trump Restricted Travel)
Local officials claimed that the CDC dismissed concerns after the system reportedly went offline in mid-February, briefly stopping the flow of data, the NYT reported. “Just let them go,” two health officials recalled being told during a February conference call with the CDC, according the NYT. The agency temporarily shut the system down to “improve data quality,” CDC reportedly told state officials.
Still, some officials complained that the agency’s notification system supplied faulty data, duplicative records, bad phone numbers and incomplete addresses for people entering the country from China. Officials reportedly spent weeks attempting to track passengers using lists the CDC had provided them.
“We got crappy data,” Maryland’s deputy health secretary Fran Phillips told TheNYT, noting that sometimes data were too old to be useful. “We would call them up and people would say, ‘Well, I was in China, but that was three years ago.’”
Neither the CDC nor the White House’s coronavirus task force have responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the report.
The NYT reported in April that more than 430,000 people arrived in the U.S. between late January and April. Roughly 279 flights arrived in the U.S. from China, according to the April report, noting also that the screening process was lax.
NYT’s April report on flights also suggested the screening process was permissive in areas, according to interviews with passengers.
“I was surprised at how lax the whole process was,” Andrew Wu, who landed at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Beijing in March, told NYT at the time. “The guy I spoke to read down a list of questions, and he didn’t seem interested in checking out anything.”
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