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Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are calling for a hearing to review the "modeling platforms" used to project the extent and impact of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming they exhibit "conflicting data" and have led to policies “placing extraordinary burdens” on Americans.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and other lawmakers penned a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., urging her to schedule a “formal hearing” — either in Washington D.C., “the field or virtually” — to review the coronavirus modeling information used to make decisions, such as stay-at-home orders, across the country.
“At the forefront of decisions regarding response efforts lies our ability to understand the breadth and depth of the spread of the illness,” Roy and colleagues wrote noting that, at this point, there have been “two primary coronavirus modeling platforms—one from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and one from the Imperial College of London.
“While widely distributed and used by many thought leaders, these models have exhibited conflicting data over time, as we all as within comparison of the models themselves,” they said. “These models have also undergone multiple wildly varying revisions, and have not seemed to account for real world behavioral changes, even demonstrating assumptions at odds with visible data in real time.”
The letter went on to say that “due to the decisions made as a result of the use of these models, we are facing an enormously negative economic impact if we do not change gears in a matter of days or weeks.”
The lawmakers noted that millions have filed for unemployment benefits, as thousands of businesses across the country have shuttered due to the virus.
“At a time when both the lives and livelihoods of Americans are at risk, we certainly must ensure we are not making decisions based on upon potentially flawed or misrepresentative information,” they wrote. “Congress needs to perform its Constitutional oversight duty surrounding modeling information related to the coronavirus response efforts, which the agencies and departments of the federal government that Congress funds have used to justify placing extraordinary burdens upon the American people.”
Roy’s letter was signed by GOP Reps. Paul Gosar, Thomas Massie, Glenn Grothman, Jody Hice, James Comer and W. Gregory Steube.
The call for a hearing comes as the models in question have been drawing some scrutiny.
As the letter noted, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has revised its model to predict the country may need fewer hospital beds and other equipment than thought, with a peak of coronavirus-related deaths potentially coming sooner than thought.
That's at odds with some other models, which together have helped guide an unprecedented government effort to curb transmission by essentially shutting down large sections of the economy and keeping people at home.
Concerns that this virus is significantly more contagious and deadly than any ordinary flu strain are what's driving the current government approach, in America and around the world. Perhaps due in part to more testing, America reports the highest number of cases in the world right now, with more than 465,000 cases and nearly 17,000 deaths. Symptoms vary widely, with some patients reporting only minor discomfort yet others dealing with crushing physical pain and struggling to breathe, forced to go on ventilators.
Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson has openly questioned the models, saying there have been discrepancies with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates, which once predicted more than 90,000 deaths by August. The new estimate has the figure closer to 60,000.
Berenson blames the models for the heavy-handed government response.
But government officials say the model is moving with what the country is doing with regard to social distancing.
"We believe that our health care delivery system in the United States is quite extraordinary," Dr. Deborah Birx said at a White House press briefing on Wednesday. "I know many of you are watching the Act Now model and the IHME model— and they have consistently decreased the number, the mortality from over almost 90,000 or 86,000, down to 81,000 and now down to 61,000. That is modeled on what America is doing. That’s what’s happening.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the indicators are that social distancing efforts are working: "Because remember, what you do with data will always outstrip a model. You redo your models, depending upon your data, and our data is telling us that mitigation is working."
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.