CDC Admits Its Covid Performance Was Lacking

Today CDC Director Rochelle Walensky released a video to the agency’s 11,000 employees that was sharply critical of CDC’s covid performance:

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday delivered a sweeping rebuke of her agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it had failed to respond quickly enough and needed to be overhauled.

“To be frank, we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes, from testing to data to communications,” she said in a video distributed to the agency’s roughly 11,000 employees.

Dr. Walensky said the C.D.C.’s future depended on whether it could absorb the lessons of the last few years, during which much of the public lost trust in the agency’s ability to handle a pandemic that has killed more than 1 million Americans. “This is our watershed moment. We must pivot,” she said.

Her admission of the agency’s failings came after she received the findings of an examination she ordered in April amid scathing criticism of the C.D.C.’s performance. The report itself was not released; an agency official said it was not yet finished but would be made public soon.

I agree that covid exposed serious weaknesses in CDC, although I don’t think my list would be the same as either Walensky’s or that of the New York Times, to whose article the above link goes.

It is notable that the experience of the last two years has caused a sharp, and well-justified, decline in public perceptions of CDC as well as other public health institutions. When covid began, CDC was sacrosanct and Dr. Fauci was considered nearly infallible by a broad swath of the population. The extent to which that has changed is reflected in a survey of 500 Minnesota voters that we have just completed for the October issue of Thinking Minnesota magazine.

As part of that survey, we asked respondents how much confidence they have in various state and national institutions. To me, the most surprising result, in a state that has long had a culture of deference to establishment organizations, was this one:

Now, I’d like to read you a list of institutions and please tell me how much confidence you have in each one. Would you say you have a great deal of confidence, quite a bit of confidence, not much confidence, or no confidence at all?

America’s public health establishment:

A great deal of confidence: 9%
Quite a bit of confidence: 27%
Not much confidence: 43%
No confidence: 19%
No opinion: 1%

Total confident: 36%
Total not confident: 62%

That represents a stunning fall from grace for once-respected institutions like CDC, and, here in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health.

Perhaps most important of all, let’s not forget that for most of the last two years, social media outlets have routinely suppressed any information that dissented from or questioned whatever dogmas were, at that moment, being disseminated by CDC. Anyone who disagreed with that agency’s line of the moment was relentless smeared. And yet, we now see the agency itself admitting that it made many mistakes.

This experience obviously shows the importance of free speech and robust debate, but there are major elements in our society, including the leading social media platforms, that continue to be hostile to dissent from the liberal party line on public health and many other topics.

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