Irregularities In COVID Reporting Contract Award Process Raise New Questions

The administration awarded a contract for a COVID-19 database to TeleTracking Technologies using a process reserved for innovative research. Its CEO had links to the New York real estate world.

8/1/2020 5:06:00 PM

A series of unusual decisions led to a private tech company winning a federal contract to gather key COVID-19 data instead of the CDC, NPR found. The company's CEO is a longtime Republican donor with ties to Trump Organization financiers.

The administration awarded a contract for a COVID-19 database to TeleTracking Technologies using a process reserved for innovative research. Its CEO had links to the New York real estate world.

"Up until the switch, we were reporting about 70 elements and we're now at 129," Kroll said, scrolling through a five-page list of the information now required."I mean, clearly we're in the middle of a pandemic, right? I mean this isn't the type of stuff you try to do in the middle of a pandemic."

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Hospitals were only given days to start sending all this information to TeleTracking. The HHS explained the sudden change by claiming the new database would streamline information gathering and help in the allocation of therapeutic pharmaceuticals like remdesivir.

But thousands of hospitals had used the CDC system for years to report infection control data. So it raised questions: Why the change? Why now?The CDC has been tracking these numbers for some 15 years. And while its system isn't perfect — it requires all the information to be entered manually, for example — it is unclear why the government, already underwater with the spread of COVID, didn't decide instead to tinker with the existing system.

Robert Redfield, the CDC's director, said thereasonHHS chose TeleTracking was because it provided"rapid ways to update the type of data that we're collecting" and that it"reduces the reporting burden," none of which, given the duplication of Kroll's experience around the country, seems to be happening.

The TeleTracking software, for example, requires all the data to be keyed in manually, just like the CDC once did.CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, right, listens as President Trump speaks during a tour of the CDC in Atlanta on March 6, 2020.Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

hide captiontoggle captionJim Watson/AFP via Getty ImagesCDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, right, listens as President Trump speaks during a tour of the CDC in Atlanta on March 6, 2020.Jim Watson/AFP via Getty ImagesAn HHS spokesperson said that the COVID response required that they move quickly to implement a new system,"even when more time might be desired. We acknowledge that hospitals were not given significant lead time to prepare for these changes."

TeleTracking's ties to Trump Organization financiersThe CEO of the company, Michael Zamagias, came from the real estate sector. He founded Zamagias Properties, a real estate investment and development company, in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1987.The company went on to develop iconic office buildings, shopping centers and malls in Pittsburgh and Virginia, and its success helped Zamagias become a fixture outside Pittsburgh and, in particular, in the New York real estate scene.

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Zamagias is a longtime Republican donor and community philanthropist, giving generously to Pittsburgh schools and youth programs.One of the young people who came to Zamagias for advice and counsel was a New Yorker named Neal Cooper, though he was hardly new to business or real estate. Zamagias became the young Cooper's mentor. He gave Cooper an internship.

Neal's father, Howard, was the named partner in a Manhattan company called Cooper-Horowitz, one of the largest privately held real estate debt and equity firms in the country."Cooper did business with Michael in the late 1980s," Neal Cooper told NPR, referring to his dad's company."I don't know if we ever did big deals with him, but we ran in the same circles. I learned a lot from Michael. He was always one or two steps ahead of the next guy."

Cooper-Horowitz handles debt and equity in all classes of real estate and specializes in the hospitality industry.And in that vein, it did billions of dollars of work with the Trump Organization on projects like the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

"I didn't handle Trump's account, but I've been in meetings with Trump," Cooper said."We did tons of business with him, billions of dollars of business."And there are other suggestions of a close relationship between Cooper-Horowitz and the Trumps.

Read more: NPR »

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So we will never get the true numbers now. Wow, these data are going to be falsified to fit Trump’s narratives! This is a breach of protocol and a waste of the taxpayers’ money! Thank God John Hopkins and Mayo Clinic and other healthcare institutions are watching the data and build their own Covid database!

Shocking that we have yet another example of the tRump, misusing power, hypocrisy and cronyism! Wow, who would have thought?! realDonaldTrump They just want to make certain the deaths are mainly Democrats. I understand the why but during a pandemic? I continue to wonder which swamp got drained . . . se4realhinton Prior covid reporting was exposed for erroneous reporting. This is why people want NPR defunded.

se4realhinton TrumpIsAMurderer Again, big donors are repaid with govt contracts from this administration. The award process has been corrupted. The far-far-far-far-far-far-far-far-far-far-far left, fringe, whack-job, leftist/feminist CONSPIRACY THEORISTS and PROPAGANDISTS at NPR have a brand-new, crackpot CONSPIRACY THEORY!🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Omg! This never happened before Trump! *Googles Hillary Clinton Goldman Sachs* The CDC and Fauci are all Democrats. Why don't you cover that next? And I've heard statisticians report already that the data is more consistent now. But it’s perfectly fine for liberal-owned biz/entity to do this & not a republican-owned entity? You’re implying that the numbers will be doctored (no pun). And yet, they were being manipulated by CDC & by some states & that’s ok?

Drain the swamp ? Mary Trump was correct, Donald will destroy USA. AcurioSaarela Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo... Same thing happening in the UK. Please, call it what it is. It's not 'unusual.' It's not 'irregular.' It's CORRUPTION. Of course they did. C O R R U P T I O N Of one should be surprised at this point.

OUTRAGEOUS! Everything about this administration is the same, playbook doesn’t change. How is this democracy Unusual decisions .... AKA ... Corruption! *pretends to be shocked* Aw what's the matter NPR/DNC you all mad the contract wasn't award to the company you wanted? You had high hopes of using that data for elections? The CDC doesn't have the money, time, resources or infrastructure to do contract tracing it's that simple.

Ok, as a national security and policy issue, the execitive branch should not determine where public health numbers should be accrued from. Thats outright ripe for politicizing and detrimental deception. 😱as if we didn’t have enough troubles already. This is what I am afraid will happen when a vaccine is approved for distribution.

That the grift continues through American deaths is craven This corruption is a betrayal of the country & of the oath of office. DeathProfiteers

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