CDC director orders reorganization, saying COVID-19 response ‘did not reliably meet expectations’
The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday announced a “reset” that will focus on making the organization quicker at responding to new health threats amid criticism of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told the agency’s staff about the changes, which include internal staffing moves and steps to speed up data releases.
“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” she said in a statement obtained by The Washington Post. “My goal is a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness.”
The changes are a CDC initiative and were not directed by the White House or other administration officials, Walensky said.
Among the changes announced Wednesday was a restructuring of the agency’s communications office and revamping its website to make public health guidance easier to find and increasing the use of preprint scientific reports to get actionable data out quicker.
Other changes included the creation of a new executive council to help Walensky set strategy and priorities, while also undoing some changes made during the Trump administration.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky told The Associated Press.
The changes come amid ongoing criticism of the agency’s response to COVID-19, monkeypox and other public health threats.
Experts said the CDC was slow to recognize how much virus was entering the U.S. from Europe, to recommend people wear masks, to say the virus can spread through the air, and to ramp up systematic testing for new variants.
The CDC has a $12 billion budget and more than 11,000 employees. Walensky became director of the agency in January 2021.