CDC admits mistakes, announces changes following external review of pandemic response

Unelected bureaucrats at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have exerted substantial control over how the nation was governed for the past two years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has faced sharp criticisms from all sides for decisions that were made.

Following an ordered external review of the CDC’s handling of the pandemic, the agency has acknowledged some of its mistakes and revealed plans to reorganize itself going forward, Roll Call reported.

CDC Director Walensky ordered an external review

The comprehensive review was ordered in April by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and was led by a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, Jim Macrae, who serves as the associate administrator for primary health care at the Health Resources and Services Administration within HHS.

“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Director Walensky admitted in a statement Wednesday, according to The Hill. “As a long-time admirer of this agency and a champion for public health, I want us all to do better, and it starts with CDC leading the way.”

“My goal is a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness,” she added.

Significant problems found during the review

ABC News described the CDC review conducted by Macrae to be “scathing” in picking apart the agency’s failures in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its recommendations to address those failures that more or less constitute an entire revamp of the public health organization.

Chief among the criticisms outlined by the review was that the CDC “takes too long” to publish its data and findings, that its guidances issued to the public were too often “confusing and overwhelming,” and that its own internal issues and staff turnover “created gaps and other challenges” for the federal agency’s partners at the local, state, and private sector levels.

The review further denounced the CDC-governed public health infrastructure as “frail” and the agency’s “operating posture” as being “not adequate to effectively respond to a crisis the size and scope” of the coronavirus pandemic.

Recommended changes are welcome but overdue

As for recommended solutions in that review, ABC News noted they included publishing scientific data more promptly and in an easier-to-understand format for the general public, as well as making its website easier to navigate. It also sought to establish a new executive council under the director that would help implement changes and streamline processes across the entirety of the CDC.

An unnamed CDC official told Politico that there was a general consensus that the agency “needs to make some changes for how it communicates and how it operates — to be faster, to be nimbler, to use more plain-spoken language.”

“People work incredibly, incredibly hard and care deeply about trying to make sure that the American people have the right information,” that official added. “Maybe the way that a lot of the [Covid-19] response was structured, and some of the incentives that people have here, are just not aligned properly to really put the focus toward getting information to people quickly and how that information can benefit Americans’ health.”

It is safe to say that most Americans, regardless of their personal politics, have been highly critical of the CDC at some point during the pandemic — though for vastly different reasons — and while this admission of fault is welcomed, it is rather belated and doesn’t excuse any of the CDC’s prior mistakes, nor does it absolve the agency of continued criticism and, perhaps more importantly, future congressional investigation and oversight.

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