Trump’s CDC chief faces increasingly harsh scrutiny

Early missteps on coronavirus, lack of a consistent message make the nation's disease-fighting agency a focus of criticism.


Confronted by the increasingly global coronavirus outbreak, the actions of the CDC and its director Robert Redfield are now under intense scrutiny — both inside and outside the administration

Early missteps on coronavirus, lack of a consistent message make the nation's disease-fighting agency a focus of criticism.

But inside the health department, officials have complained that Redfield and CDC have been slow to resolve essential problems, like clarifying whether dozens of public health labs around the nation will soon have diagnostics capable of testing for coronavirus. Until then, the labs must currently mail samples to CDC’s Atlanta headquarters, delaying test results. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and some White House officials have warned that without sufficient screening capacity, possible cases of coronavirus might be going undetected.

Meanwhile, Trump officials across the administration have been frustrated by CDC staff’s caginess on revising preparedness plans that were supposed to be years in the making or at CDC staff who have produced conflicting data, such as different case counts over how many Americans have been infected. CDC officials also made the decision to support the Japanese health department’s quarantine of thousands of passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was marooned for days off the coast of Japan, and disagreed with efforts to evacuate the ship even after it became clear that coronavirus infections were spreading aboard the vessel.

Nancy Messonnier, who leads CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, on Tuesday also startled HHS and White House officials by elevating the perceived threat of coronavirus in a news briefing with reporters. “We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this could be bad,” Mesonnier said in the briefing, before walking through possible steps such as encouraging schools to consider closing. Top Trump advisers have worried that panic over a still-unseen U.S. outbreak could threaten the president’s reelection, and Azar and other officials have spent the past two days working to calm the public reaction to Messonnier’s comments.

In front of a Senate appropriations panel on Tuesday, Azar defended the public-health agency for its round-the-clock response to a possible outbreak, arguing that it’s played an essential role in staving off an outbreak that remains largely theoretical in the United States.

Read more: POLITICO

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The article cites a 2018 UCSUSA poll that found more than 80 percent of CDC scientists said the agency continued to uphold its scientific principles under Trump, compared to less than 40 percent of scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency. Will this continue to hold? Another unqualified Trump crony?

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