Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed earlier this week plans to “reform” the CDC and make it “more responsive” to crises.
The CDC has been plagued with criticism over how it handled the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is currently handling the current monkeypox outbreak.
Walensky claimed the idea to “reset” the CDC was an internal decision made by the agency, not a directive from the White House.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky said in a statement to the Associated Press on Wednesday.
The move comes after recently released guidelines that reversed recommendations about exposure to COVID-19 and quarantine.
The new guidelines stated that quarantine is no longer necessary, regardless of vaccination status, countering more than a year of emphasis on strict quarantine protocols and the promotion of COVID-19 vaccines, even as new variants proved less and less lethal.
A salient criticism of the agency over recent years has been that it is too slow in absorbing data, analyzing it, and changing course based on said data, causing the public messaging on COVID-19 to lag behind epidemiological developments.
For instance, many scientists knew COVID-19 was airborne roughly a year before the CDC issued its first warning to the public about that method of transmission.
Yale School of Public Health policy researcher Jason Schwartz told NBC 5, “We saw during COVID that the CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary.”
He went on to tell the news outlet that a reorganization of the CDC is a good first move but that “a broader accounting” of its actions would be ideal.
Any proposal Walensky puts forward as a part of the reorganization must first obtain approval from the secretary of Health and Human Services.
Some of the proposed changes she announced this week include:
- Restructuring of communications and the agency website to streamline public access.
- Increasing the use of preprint scientific reports instead of waiting on peer-reviewed data.
- Efforts to address a leadership turnover problem.
- Creating an intergovernmental affairs office to better coordinate with other agencies.
Walensky stated that any proposed changes that are approved and finalized could be implemented in early.