The credibility of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is "eroding" after the agency failed to update its pandemic mask guidance, as well as recent accusations that powerful teachers unions are dictating CDC policy in terms of school reopenings.
"I think the CDC’s credibility is eroding as quickly as the cases of coronavirus are eroding," said Dr. Kavita Patel, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution and former Obama official. "That’s not good news, because, we do need workplace guidance, we need school guidance," she added in comments to CNBC's Shephard Smith.
"There are men and women working on the lines outside on telephone and electricity lines, and they’re still wearing masks because, in the absence of this guidance, we’re making it up," she added. "That actually puts more of us at risk, so this is time to step up. These are the hard parts of government and public health communication, but we desperately need someone to do it."
Patel's comments echo those of prominent Republican Senators, including Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK).
"I used to have the utmost respect for the guidance from the CDC," said Collins during a Tuesday Congressional hearing on the pandemic response. "I always considered the CDC to be the Gold Standard. I don’t anymore."
And according to Murkowski, federal mask requirements are endangering fishermen.
"You’re out on a boat. The winds are howling. Your mask is soggy wet," she said during the hearing. "Tell me how anybody thinks that this is a sane and a sound policy?"
Meanwhile, earlier this month emails obtained by the New York Post revealed that the American Federation of Teachers lobbied the CDC - and even suggested language - for the agency's official school-reopening guidance released in February.
The documents show a flurry of activity between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisors and union officials — with Biden brass being looped in at the White House — in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines.
“Thank you again for Friday’s rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT,” wrote AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner in a Feb 1 email — which described the union as the CDC’s “thought partner.”
“We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document,” Trautner continued. “… We believe our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents.”
Walensky wasn’t on the Feb 1 email, but it was forwarded to her by Carole Johnson, the White House coronavirus testing coordinator. Many emails included Will McIntee, an associate director of public engagement at The White House. -NY Post
On Tuesday, CDC Chief Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky responded to criticisms over the agency's response - telling Senators that the school guidance changes were due to an "oversight" - and that "The back-and-forth was a normal part of the agency’s process for drafting guidance," according to the New York Times.
Ms. Collins also accused the C.D.C. of using faulty data in its recent mask guidance for the outdoors. The agency announced last month that “less than 10 percent” of transmission was occurring outdoors, a statistic infectious disease experts said was a misleading exaggeration. Dr. Walensky said that the C.D.C. had used a rigorous aggregation of studies in a renowned medical publication, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, to back that figure.
And Ms. Collins quoted pediatricians saying that the C.D.C.’s guidance for summer camps — in which federal officials said that children could be within three feet of peers in same-group settings but must wear masks at all times — was illogical. Dr. Walensky allowed that the guidance would change now that adolescents can receive the vaccine.
“We have unnecessary barriers to reopening schools, exaggerating the risks of outdoor transmission and unworkable restrictions on summer camps,” Ms. Collins said. “It matters because it undermines public confidence in your recommendations, in the recommendations that do make sense.”
Dr. Walensky said that the C.D.C. was working to update its guidance as more Americans get vaccinated and as scientists glean new insight. The agency’s drafting process — seeking internal and external expert input — was collaborative and responsive, she said. -NYT
Not very confidence-inspiring to say the least.