The prestigious medical journal The Lancet took square aim at the Trump administration on Friday, urging Americans to elect a president “who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”
The administration, the unsigned editorial argued, has enacted an “inconsistent and incoherent national response to the COVID-19 crisis” and marginalized public health experts.
The article focused on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been unusually absent from the Trump administration’s public COVID-19 messaging. That started, as the Lancet noted, when the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Nancy Messonnier warned on Feb. 25 that “disruption to everyday life might be severe.”
“Messonnier subsequently no longer appeared at White House briefings on COVID-19,” The Lancet noted.
The editorial took stock of some of the CDC’s missteps. In July 2019, the Trump administration eliminated a key CDC public health position in China — an American epidemiologist tasked with training others in the country — thus eliminating key eyes and ears on the ground. And the CDC bungling early testing for COVID-19 stateside, blurring the picture of the disease as it grew across the country.
That the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx reportedly said last week “there is nothing from the CDC that I can trust,” the Lancet argued, was “a shocking indictment of an agency that was once regarded as the gold standard for global disease detection and control.” (Birx, The Daily Beast reported separately, is one of several administration officials pressuring the CDC to change how it counts COVID-19 statistics. The proposed changes, which are championed by Trump himself, would reduce the official death toll.)
Still, according to the editorial, “punishing the agency by marginalising and hobbling it is not the solution.”
“The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets — vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear,” the editorial argued. “But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency.”