More than 1,000 current and former members of the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have now publicly joined the chorus of criticism for the Trump administration’s handling of the Coronavirus. The Wall Street Journal describes the Epidemic Intelligence Service as “an elite disease-fighting program,” which features a two-year fellowship in which members “develop disease detective chops as they fight on the front lines” against disease outbreaks. In a new joint letter, many of this program’s current and former members call the status quo of the federal government’s current Coronavirus response “unprecedented and dangerous.”
The 1,044 signatories said in their letter that they wished to “express [their] concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation’s health protection agency” during the Coronavirus pandemic. Frequently, political appointees in the Trump administration have tried to circumvent the CDC’s work to respond to the outbreak. For example, a recent temporary relaxation of the CDC’s guidelines for who needed to get tested for the Coronavirus was reportedly the work of officials at the Department of Health and Human Services who put it on the agency’s website without sending the material though the CDC’s scientific review process. The temporarily in-place update insisted that individuals without symptoms did not need to get Coronavirus tests, even if they had been exposed to the pathogen.
Meanwhile, as for the overall public face of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, political officials have frequently taken the lead. The president himself held a slew of pandemic-related press conferences at which he pushed nonsense. Vice President Mike Pence was tasked with leading the White House’s virus response task force, while the president’s profoundly inexperienced son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner ineptly led a group focused on procuring supplies.
The current and former Epidemic Intelligence Service members write:
‘The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous. CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency.’
The CDC issued a vague response to the letter, stating:
‘CDC has today, as it has every day during its 74-year history, provided the best available information and recommendations to the American public. Since January, more than 5,200 CDC personnel have dedicated themselves to protecting the health of the American people.’
Dr. Jeanette Stehr-Green, who is one of the new letter’s signatories, shared that she had experienced the results of the national-level fumbling firsthand. After the temporary change in testing guidelines that stated that asymptomatic individuals did not need Coronavirus tests, “her team of 40 volunteer contact tracers grew confused on who to test,” the Journal says, eventually moving forward with similar testing levels as before.
Discussing the guidelines controversy, Stehr-Green — who works as a public health consultant in Port Angeles, Washington — shared:
‘A number of steps such as that have interfered with us doing the best job that we can. The CDC has written the book on epidemic preparedness and how to respond. Their expertise has been ignored to the detriment of us all.’
Donald Trump himself has publicly taken on the CDC’s Director, Dr. Robert Redfield. After Redfield told Congress that a Coronavirus vaccine might not be broadly available until early 2021, Trump — who has zero scientific expertise — self-confidently insisted that Redfield “made a mistake.”