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CDC's talk is cheap. Here's what Rochelle Walensky should do instead
August 23 2022, 08:00

The CDC director just announced a widespread overhaul of the agency while acknowledging widespread failures in its handling of the pandemic. But the announcement does not appear to be a result of self-reflection and a true turnaround. Instead, they are trying to get ahead of a General Accountability Office report coming out in the coming days which is expected to be scathing.

The CDC has lost the trust of the American public. So it’s not enough to say that change will come. The most telling indicator that the CDC’s mea culpa is not legit is that it continues to uphold bad policies. Weeks ago, based on CDC guidance, the military cut off 60,000 personnel for not complying with its vaccine mandate. Nearly all have natural immunity, which studies show is more protective than vaccine-based immunity. Will the CDC call for their re-instatement?

Will the CDC allow one of the greatest tennis players in the world, Novak Djokovic, to enter U.S. customs to play in the U.S. Open? Djokovic has natural immunity but has chosen not to get vaccinated. He is following the science. He’s in the absolute lowest COVID risk group on earth, and, as a young man, is at the highest risk for COVID vaccine complications. But his perspective puts him at odds with the CDC’s absolutism.

If the CDC is serious about correcting its misdeeds, it should start now. It should stop pushing boosters on teenagers and ask colleges to remove their booster mandates. It should ask the Philadelphia school district to remove masks on students. It should tell the government-funded Head Start program to stop requiring all children ages 2 and up to wear masks. 

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The CDC should also acknowledge that the Pfizer COVID vaccine for babies and toddlers was recommended by the agency even though the clinical trial found no statistically significant efficacy. And importantly, it should apologize for being complicit in the human rights violation that was the banning of Americans to visit their dying loved ones in the hospital for most of the pandemic.

But instead of addressing these key issues, the CDC is busy work on their publicity efforts. The first move of the reform has been getting a new PR director for the CDC. They hired Kevin Griffis, a former public affairs expert at the Department of Health and Human Services and at Planned Parenthood, to head the agency’s communications efforts.

Talk is cheap and promises are empty if they’re not accompanied by action. Making any of the above policy changes or public stances would signal that the CDC is serious about doing better. What we need to see is the correction of its mistakes, not the promise for fewer mistakes in the future.

"To be frank, we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes. From testing, to data, to communications," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in an internal video, according to an ABC News report.

Walensky said the agency is at a "watershed moment" and promised reform. But while Walensky’s announcement this week sounded like a major reform, it appears to only address the periphery. It modifies criteria for internal promotion of CDC staff and speeds up the time for the agency to review its own flawed studies, such as the Mericopa Mask study, which falsely concluded that school mask mandates reduced COVID transmission. The CDC should acknowledge and uphold the three larger and more rigorous school mask studies done subsequently that showed that school mask mandates had no impact on COVID transmission.

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Perhaps most telling, the person the CDC is bringing in to oversee its overhaul is a long-time government bureaucrat. Mary Wakefield, a former Clinton appointee, has a longstanding career in government. It would seem like a radical overhaul would be led by someone with a business record, rather than a career bureaucrat.

If the CDC is truly interested in an overhaul, it should start with correcting its mistakes and making specific apologies to Americans, children in particular.

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