Ex-Directors Rip 'Political Leaders' Undermining CDC

Former heads of agency criticize 'willful disregard public health guidelines'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2020 4:34 PM CDT
Former CDC Chiefs Unite to Defend Agency
Tom Frieden, director of the CDC at the time, testifies on Capitol Hill in 2016.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Four former heads of the CDC fought back Tuesday against Trump administration efforts to pressure the agency into revising its coronavirus guidelines. Their defense of the agency, contained in an op-ed in the Washington Post, was critical of "political leaders and others" but did not name President Trump, Politico reports. "As the debate last week around reopening schools more safely showed, these repeated efforts to subvert sound public health guidelines introduce chaos and uncertainty while unnecessarily putting lives at risk," wrote Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher, and Richard Besser. Besser was once an acting director of the CDC; the others were directors. They led the CDC for 15 years total. In that time, they could not recall "a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence," they wrote.

"Willful disregard for public health guidelines is, unsurprisingly, leading to a sharp rise in infections and deaths," the op-ed said. After Trump called the CDC guidelines for schools "very tough & expensive" and threatened to cut funding if schools don't reopen in the fall, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the agency would release "additional guidance." Dr. Robert Redfield, the current director, said he would not back off the original school guidelines despite Trump's opposition. On Sunday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos dismissed the guidelines as suggestions, basically. CDC guidelines sometimes change during a review process, the former directors wrote, but "it is extraordinary for guidelines to be undermined after their release." You can read the op-ed here. (DeVos discounts CDC guidelines.)

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