New CDC director handles crisis-ridden agency

NEW YORK (AP) – As coronoviruses swept around the world last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sank into the shadows, succumbing to a few mistakes of its own and an administration bent on alleviating the nation’s suffering.

Now a new CDC director is coming to do a mammoth task: reassuring the agency while the epidemic is still in its deadliest phase and the country’s largest vaccination campaign is shattered by confusion and delay.

“I don’t know if the CDC broke down or was just temporarily injured,” but something must be done to bring it back to health, said Timothy Westmoreland, a professor of law at Georgetown University focusing on public health Concentrated.

The work was done by Dr. 51-year-old infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Rochelle comes to Wallensky, who is expected to become director of the CDC this week – a time when the US death toll of the virus has been 400,000 and continues to boom.

While the agency retains some of its top scientific talent, public health experts say it has a long list of needs, including new protection from political influence, a comprehensive review of its misuse during epidemics and basic More money is included to complete the tasks. Disease tracking and genetic analysis.

Valensky has stated that one of his top priorities is to rebuild the CDC’s trust with the public to improve communication. Inside the agency, he wants to boost morale in a big way, by restoring the primacy of science and establishing politics in favor.

The speed with which she is taking work is unusual. In the past, the situation has generally not been met until a new Secretary of Health and Human Services is confirmed, and that official name is called CDC Director. But this time, the Biden transition team already named Valensky, so she could take over the reins of the agency before she replaced her boss.

Valensky, an HIV researcher, has not worked at the CDC or any state or local health department. But she has emerged as a prominent voice on the epidemic, sometimes criticizing certain aspects of state and national response. His goals include unequal transmission-prevention measures that were in place last summer and Trump’s advisers supported a “herd immunity” approach. That will let the virus run free.

He acknowledged weaknesses in his resume. “When people write about me as a selection for this position, they will say, but they don’t have public health experience,” he said during a podcast with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The host of the podcast, Drs. He was praised by Howard Boucher, who is also the editor of the magazine. “I can’t imagine the CDC and the nation being fortunate … mostly because you can communicate, which is such an important task for the head of the CDC,” he said.

Valensky did not respond to interview requests from The Associated Press.

He is 69 years old Dr. Robert would succeed Redfield, who came to the CDC with a similar resume as an outsider to the Academy. Redfield kept a low profile during his first two years after being appointed by the Trump administration in 2018. Veteran CDC scientists handled crises such as a fatal national increase in hepatitis, a serious rise between homeless people and illegal users, and a mysterious spike. Serious diseases among people who smoke electronic cigarettes.

The agency’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak began in a similar fashion. Staff scientists took over, holding regular news conferences to update the public on the emerging problem.

But the agency stumbled in February when a test for the virus sent to the states proved to be flawed. Then, later in the month, a top CDC infectious disease specialist, Dr. Nancy Masonier, angered the Trump administration by speaking candidly at a press conference Regarding the dangers of the virus when President Donald Trump was still ending it.

Within weeks, the agency was removed from the stage. Redfield made an appearance, but he was often a third-grade speaker after remarks dominated by Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and others.

The CDC “has been sidelined, malleable, has been a punching bag for many politicians in the outgoing administration. A former CDC official, Dr. Richard Besar, said it had a detrimental effect on the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission.” , Now head of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

White House officials also took steps to try to control the CDC’s scientific reports and guidance on its website. For example, the agency removed the guidance The church advised to limit singing activities, even though the study demonstrated the danger of extended singing transmissions. The agency also dropped guidance, saying that anyone who came in close contact with the infected person should undergo a test – then adopt it again after criticism From health experts.

“Followers across the political spectrum have reason to doubt the veracity and accuracy of the CDC’s messages,” said Adrian Casalotti of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

While public health veterans say they don’t know everything that happened behind the scenes, they say that Redfield apparently failed to stand up to the agency’s scientists, he denied Trump’s antidote and Permitted the Trump administration to post its message on CDC websites.

A former CDC employee who is now dean of the School of Public Health at Albany’s State University of New York said “he was not ready to resign when it was necessary or fired for standing up for doctrine Were.”

Redfield refused to be interviewed.

The epidemic also highlighted some of the CDC’s failures and weaknesses that were unrelated to politics. The test kit problem was tied to laboratory contamination at the agency’s Atlanta headquarters – indicating slope. The CDC lost its stand as the nation’s go-to source for case counts and other epidemic measures after university researchers and others developed better systems to track infections.

Much of this has to do with the cycle of funding for the national public health system that rises in response to one crisis and then collapses, hurting efforts to prevent the next crisis.

Last week, Biden said they would ask for $ 160 billion for vaccination and other public health programs, including efforts to expand the public health workforce. By 100,000 jobs.

Westmoreland of Georgetown called for a law or other measure to prohibit political appointments to conduct an editorial review of CDC science and to restrict them from governing the release of information by the agency. He also recommended a review of the CDC to determine whether Trump’s political appointments or deep flaws in the organization could be traced to the agency’s problems.

Some experts suggest that an administration that values ​​science and increases funding may restore the CDC to preselection. Biden said that Biden has promised to put scientists in the COVID-19 cases.

He said, “That’s something I think will be decided on Day One.” “I hope that one of the things I have not seen a major exodus from the CDC during the past year. I saw professionals doing their work. I saw the mental toll they were taking, but I did not see them giving. “


The Associated Press Department of Health and Sciences has support from the Science Education Department of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.


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