Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday launched a month-long comprehensive agency-wide review and evaluation following widespread criticism of the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The review, announced April 4, will evaluate the CDC’s structure, systems and processes, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told staff in an email obtained by The Washington Post.
Walensky said the goal of the review is to “modernize” the agency and “to position CDC, and the public health community, for greatest success in the future.”
She wrote in the email:
“The lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the feedback I have received inside and outside the agency over the past year, indicate that it is time to take a step back and strategically position CDC to support the future of public health.”
The review will be conducted by Jim Mcrae, associate administrator for primary healthcare at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
The HRSA and the CDC are part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Since the pandemic began more than two years ago,” The Washington Post noted, “the once-storied agency has been under fire for its pandemic response, from initial delays developing a coronavirus test to the severe eligibility limits to get the test.”
Last month, the CDC’s decision to remove from its data tracker website tens of thousands of deaths linked to COVID — including nearly a quarter of the deaths the agency said had occurred among children — eroded public trust in the CDC’s handling of case counts, as well.
In a statement to the public, Walensky defended the agency’s actions, stating:
“Never in its 75-year history has CDC had to make decisions so quickly, based on often limited, real-time, and evolving science.
“As we’ve challenged our state and local partners, we know that now is the time for CDC to integrate the lessons learned into a strategy for the future.”
Walensky said the review will focus on the CDC’s core capabilities, according to The New York Times. These include the public health workforce, data modernization, laboratory capacity, health equity, rapid responses to disease outbreaks and preparedness.
‘It’d be better if the agency hadn’t existed’
The Hill’s “Rising” hosts Robby Soave and Kim Iversen on Monday expressed doubt the CDC review would accomplish much change.
“How is another health bureaucrat going to fairly adjudicate these things at all?” Soave asked.
“Probably not very well,” Iversen responded.
“It’ll be interesting to see what this month-long review even is going to be going over. Which policies, in particular, are they going to be scrutinizing? Are they just going to be … looking at everything and then, in the end, they’re going to say, ‘Oh, A-plus, CDC, you did a fantastic job?’”
In the early phase of the pandemic, the CDC “totally screwed up,” said Soave. “It’d be better if the agency hadn’t existed at that phase of the pandemic, and that is a pretty damning thing to say about a health agency.”
Messaging to the public was inconsistent throughout, Iversen and Soave agreed.
Soave said he hopes the review will reveal what data was motivating officials’ decisions at each point of the pandemic.
But Iversen expressed doubt the agency will improve on the issue of transparency.
She said, “I’m wondering if they’re going to say the CDC should also be under the NIH [National Institutes of Health]. So it would just be Fauci and not Walensky in the future.”
“That’s why centralization is scary,” said Soave. “They should explore whether maybe not having a CDC would be the right [thing].”
Also, he said, maybe the CDC should consider “not funding research for making viruses more deadly.”
Iversen stopped short of calling for the elimination of the CDC. “There’s a lot of good stuff that comes out of public health and science and research … it’s just that with the pandemic it was a very different experience,” she said.
Watch the segment here: