The CDC Finally Admits It Failed


Source: Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times via AP, Pool.


By Leah Barkoukis

In the wake of its numerous failures during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will undergo a series of changes as it tries to modernize the agency and repair its embattled reputation.

“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,” CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told agency employees in an email. “As a long-time admirer of this agency and a champion for public health, I want us all to do better.”

To that end, Walensky, who said the agency made “pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes” in its COVID-19 response, announced measures that would allow the CDC to respond better and more quickly to public health emergencies, including making sweeping changes to how the agency analyzes and shares data and how promptly it shares information with the public.

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

Changes in leadership and reorganization of staff will also occur.

Walensky’s big announcement comes after two recent reviews on its pandemic response and agency operations by Health Resources and Services Administration official Jim Macrae and CDC Chief of Staff Sherri Berger.

The reviews concluded that the “traditional scientific and communication processes were not adequate to effectively respond to a crisis the size and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to an agency statement.

Specifically, Macrae’s review, which included 120 interviews with CDC staffers and people outside the agency, recommended a series of improvements, including releasing scientific findings and data more quickly to improve transparency, translating science into practical and easy-to-understand policy, improving communication with the public, working better with other agencies and public health partners, and training and incentivizing the agency’s workforce to respond better to public health emergencies. (Politico)

While acknowledging it failed is a step in the right direction, many argue the biggest change needs to be made at the top.