CDC Says It Will Revamp Agency Following Pandemic Criticism

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that it will undergo a monthlong review and evaluation of its agency following criticism of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in an agency-wide email obtained by The New York Times and The Washington Post, said the CDC has hired an outside senior federal health official to conduct the review of the agency’s “structure, systems, and processes.”

“The lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the feedback I have received inside and outside the agency over the past year, indicate that it is time to take a step back and strategically position CDC to support the future of public health,” she said, according to the Times.

Jim Macrae, who serves as associate administrator for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, will conduct the review. He will begin on April 11.

Three senior CDC officials will assist Macrae by collecting feedback on the agency’s structure and offer suggestions on what could be strategically changed, Walensky said.

The goal of the process is to upgrade and modernize the agency’s “core capabilities.” This includes expanding its workforce, data modernization, laboratory capacity, health equity, and its response to disease outbreaks and preparedness, according to the Post.

The CDC has for the past year worked to speed up data reporting and scientific processes amid its pandemic response. But this review will, among other things, work to institutionalize and formalize these processes, the agency told HuffPost in an email Tuesday.

“These efforts will strengthen and transform CDC to better support the future of public health, and modernize and optimize the agency to deliver science and programmatic activities to the American people,” a spokesperson said.

The agency has been hit with a barrage of pandemic criticism even before Walensky took over in early 2021.

Critics have assailed the agency for such things as failing to immediately recommend face masks, being late to recognize that the virus is airborne, telling people who are fully vaccinated they can stop wearing masks indoors and then telling them they have to wear masks indoors.

It has also been criticized for advising people who test positive for the virus but are asymptomatic that they can leave isolation after just five days, which was half of the previous recommendation.

Walensky has acknowledged the various hurdles that have been flung at the agency.

“Never in its 75 year history has CDC had to make decisions so quickly, based on often limited, real-time, and evolving science,” Walensky said of the agency’s pandemic handling in a statement Monday.

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