What A Concept: Incoming CDC Director Vows To ‘Promote Science’ In COVID Response

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - DECEMBER 08: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Centers for Disease Control, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 08, 2020 in Wilming... WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - DECEMBER 08: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Centers for Disease Control, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 08, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. With the novel coronavirus pandemic continuing to ravage the country with daily records for infections and deaths, members of Biden's health team said they will make fighting COVID-19 the priority. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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December 23, 2020 11:31 a.m.
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Incoming director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday said that she will make every effort to “promote science” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring that science-based evidence is turned into actionable guidance that is uniform across states.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, sought to downplay the coronavirus pandemic in the lead up to the 2020 election in an effort to boost President Trump’s campaign. White House staffers, including Ivanka Trump, also reportedly meddled in the CDC’s COVID messaging to make it more politically advantageous.

“We need to just make sure that the science is being consistent and translatable into guidance that is uniform across the states,” Walensky told CNN’s John Berman in an interview early Wednesday. 

The current chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School professor was tapped earlier this month to lead the CDC when President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January — a task that will likely involve reestablishing confidence in an agency that has been politicized during Trump’s tenure. 

Walensky’s comments come after Dr. Anthony Fauci, who accepted a role as Biden’s chief medical adviser, told reporters on Tuesday that “mixed signals” from the Trump administration had prevented momentum toward conquering the virus. 

Walensky, who said she’s already been in frequent contact with the longtime director of the National Alliance for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, agreed, touting the importance of uniform federal response when Biden takes office.

“To have each of them reinvent the wheel and not to learn from one another and not to have federal guidance is just not a good use of sparse resources we have,” she said.

Responding to a question, Walensky also pledged to resume regular CDC press briefings which have all but disappeared. That would be a reversal from Trump’s approach, putting much of the COVID response onto state officials, leaving states to grapple on their own with a pandemic that has killed more than 323,000 people in the United States since March.

Walensky’s call for increased federal response under Biden came shortly after the Trump administration struck an agreement to secure 100 million more doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine by the end of July in a nearly $2 billion deal announced Wednesday.

Responding to the news on Wednesday, the future CDC director welcomed the promise of more vaccine doses while cautioning that federal funds allocated to vaccine distribution represent “just a downpayment” for what will need to happen to reach every corner of the country.

In spite of a rosy picture painted by the Trump administration that is short-sighted amid what will likely be a long-haul effort to inoculate millions of Americans, Walensky echoed the sentiments made by the incoming president in recent weeks for Americans to remain vigilant in following the CDC’s current recommendations to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“More vaccine is a really good thing but we can’t let up on the measures we have right now,” Walensky said.

Walensky said that she has not yet been in contact with officials at the agency, aside from its current director, who she spoke with on the night she was named for the role more than two weeks ago.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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