The CDC’s COVID Failures Mount
The once widely respected public health agency has become arrogant and politically beholden.
What grade does America’s premier public health agency deserve vis-à-vis the biggest public healthcare threat the country has faced in generations? The short answer would be “a failing grade.” Throughout the course of the COVID pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly misinterpreted data, misinformed the public, and allowed political considerations to direct its guidelines rather than holding strictly to the known science.
The result has been widespread confusion and deep distrust in an institution that should seek to avoid any whiff of political considerations in its decision-making. Fewer Americans trust the CDC today than did before the pandemic, and the lion’s share of the blame rests almost entirely on those leading the CDC.
Although he doesn’t hold a position at the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom Donald Trump tagged as the lead medical professional to communicate with the American people regarding the novel virus, has seemingly served as role model to the CDC’s operation. Fauci was perhaps Trump’s biggest blunder, because the Beltway’s highest-paid bureaucrat arguably cost Trump a second term through his own continual display of a total lack of humility and honesty. The CDC seemed to mimic his approach.
“The CDC is supposed to be America’s frontline institution in the fight against infectious disease,” Peter Suderman pointedly observes. “Its job is to analyze viral threats, track their spread and development, and provide the public with relevant information about how to respond to outbreaks. Not only did the agency do this job poorly in the early stages of the pandemic, but it actively hindered efforts that would have greatly improved America’s response, and it made planning errors that were both predictable and avoidable. At nearly every stage of the pandemic, the CDC got things wrong and got in the way. Its failures almost certainly made America’s pandemic worse.”
From foulups of COVID testing kits to promulgating misleading information, from allowing a partisan teachers union to dictate guidance to outrageously overstepping its boundaries with things like the eviction moratorium, the CDC failed the country. Making matters worse has been the CDC’s elitist and condescending attitude toward the American public. Rather than seeing itself as primarily a public health advisory agency, those leading the CDC seemed to see the agency as primarily a means to wield governing authority over the American people.
“The root of the problem is the agency’s self-conception: It sees itself as the ultimate arbiter of what is true and what to do on all matters of infectious disease,” Suderman further notes. “In essence, the CDC believes there is no other authority besides the CDC, so it shuts out private labs from the testing process, insists that its faulty tests actually work pretty well long after problems arise, sticks with overly complicated plans that bog down processes, and resists calls to update its guidance, even when that guidance makes living ordinary life difficult or impossible.”
The CDC’s guiding concern seems to have been politics, not science, which has created greater distrust within the minds of many Americans. Of course, the CDC’s “my way or the highway” approach will not lend itself to much introspection, something that is desperately needed if those who run the agency hope to regain any trust from the public. If this is the best Americans can expect from the CDC, then who needs it?
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