The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sept. 14 defended how most of the agency's workers are working remotely every day or some days.
"The people who need to be at CDC are at CDC," Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) during a hearing in Washington.
Cassidy expressed frustration that Walensky and the CDC repeatedly rebuffed his efforts to get the numbers and said the trust between the public and the CDC has "dissipated" over the lack of transparency. He noted that the CDC is requesting billions more in emergency funding and questioned why it should be given.
"It's incredibly frustrating that a deliberate decision was made not to be transparent with the American people as regards the amount of people actually showing up to work. It takes a FOIA request from a newspaper. And now you're asking for billions more. Why should we trust [you]?" Cassidy asked.
Walensky then said the employees who need to work in person at the CDC, which is based in Atlanta, are there, mentioning laboratory workers specifically.
Walensky Works RemotelyCassidy noted that still left many workers who aren't in the field working remotely or at home. Walensky said many workers, including herself, are often on the road, citing how she was in Washington and had recently traveled to Atlanta and New Mexico. According to profiles of Walensky, she often isn't in Atlanta and works sometimes from her home in Massachusetts.
“I don’t know how you motivate and inspire culture change when people aren’t together,” Besser said.
Cassidy asked Walensky how many workers were showing up to work in person before the pandemic.
"I don't have those numbers for you," Walensky responded.
"I don't think anybody in here or anybody watching really thinks that only 22 percent of the CDC employees showed up for work at the building before the pandemic. They think it was probably 78 percent, and now the number's reversed," Cassidy said. "It's going to be hard for me to support more appropriations until we have a better relationship, a more trusting relationship, a more transparent relationship between the agency and Congress, which you're asking to fund your activities."