CDC Needs to Reclaim Its Reputation as Nation’s Public Health Agency and Be Apolitical: Medical News Editors

By Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee is a health reporter for The Epoch Times.
February 10, 2022 Updated: February 10, 2022

The editors of an online medical news organization called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to “reclaim their independence” and their credibility as the nation’s leading public health agency by leaving the White House COVID Response Team in Washington.

“CDC and its director, Rochelle Walensky, MD, need to reclaim their independence and return to Atlanta,” the editors of Medpage Today said in an opinion article published on Wednesday, adding that “the agency’s presence in Washington has hindered, not helped, its reputation.”

The editors allege that the White House COVID Response Team’s “uneasy marriage of politics and public health” has caused the CDC to lose its scientific credibility and “fueled distrust of public health guidelines.”

“Leaving the White House COVID Response Team would disentangle the CDC from this politically charged arrangement, and empower it to manage this public health crisis as they’ve managed every prior public health crisis, from 2009’s H1N1 swine flu pandemic to 2014’s Ebola outbreak,” the editors said.

The CDC led the country through the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, holding press briefings and telebriefings, putting out guidances for when schools should close, and communicating with both the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Secretary of Education.

It was estimated that there were about 60.8 million cases of confirmed swine flu, over 274,000 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths (where 87 percent of the deaths occurred in people under 65 years of age) in the United States from April 12, 2009, to April 10, 2010.

Parting with the COVID response team will help “strengthen and clarify” the CDC’s message, the editors claim.

“Unmooring the CDC from the White House sends the message that the pandemic is not over, and the nation’s public health agency is focusing their attention on ending it, rather than endorsing whatever the White House says,” the authors wrote.

They added, “if the CDC held its own briefings, it also might encourage a more active role for HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, who has been practically invisible during the pandemic with the White House running the show.”

Becerra, who previously served as California’s attorney general, has come under fire lately for not taking a more active role since being confirmed as the nation’s health secretary in March 2021.

Trust in the CDC has taken a huge hit during the pandemic among the public, including those in the medical field. According to an online poll by medical news site WebMD and Medscape, of the nearly 2,000 nurses surveyed from May 25 to June 3, 2021, 77 percent “said their trust in the CDC has decreased since the start of the pandemic.” Similarly, 77 percent of doctors, out of about 450 surveyed, also said their trust had declined.

“The CDC must return to Atlanta to resume the role it was always meant to play: an apolitical arbiter of public health decisions and an advisor to the White House, not its yes-man,” the editors said.

“Mixing the two together has left a political stench on the agency’s credibility. The time has come to dissolve this doomed marriage of convenience.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to the CDC, the White House, and Becerra for comment.

Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee is a health reporter for The Epoch Times.