CDC Slack Messages with State Health Departments

Slack messages produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to American Oversight’s request for the contents of a Slack channel used to communicate with state public health officials.

In May, American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Slack messages sent by officials at the CDC, after we received records showing that the CDC had a “novel-coronavirus” Slack channel. The channel was described as a place for “open communication and collaboration relating to syndromic querying, investigations, and general surveillance for the novel coronavirus outbreak.”

The records themselves include guidelines that indicate all Slack messages are federal records subject to FOIA. They span March to April 2020, although we had requested records starting from February. Previous records indicated the CDC had started the Slack channel and invited officials to join it in late January 2020.

In the records, state and federal officials talked about pandemic-related trends across the country. In one conversation on March 20, public health officials discussed a drop in emergency hospital visits at the time. The officials also discussed the push for data transparency, specifically making Covid-related syndromic data publicly available, as well as the tracking of non-Covid syndromic data related to suicides, accidents, and mental health.