CDC admits Covid response has been insufficient, launches reorganization

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is reorganizing the agency, saying it hasn’t responded quickly enough during the Covid pandemic, according to an internal review of the agency’s operations released Wednesday.

Walensky outlined several organizational changes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make over the next few months to correct the missteps and failures that have occurred over the past 2.5 years of the pandemic, according to a fact sheet.

“For 75 years, the CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance has not reliably met expectations,” Walensky said in a statement. “My goal is a new culture of public health action at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness.”

The main goals of the reorganization are focused on sharing scientific data more quickly and making it easier for the public to understand the health guidance, according to the briefing document. Walensky launched the review in April after the massive winter outbreak of infections with the omicron variant upended the country’s public health response.

The CDC has been repeatedly criticized during the pandemic for confusing public health recommendations and releasing data too slowly through retrospective reports that have been overtaken by the rapid spread of the virus. Public health experts were often frustrated that pandemic briefings relied on data from other countries, such as the UK and Israel.

Walensky appoints an executive to lead a team that will implement the changes. The CDC will also create a new executive board that will report directly to Walensky to determine the agency’s top priorities, supported by budget decisions.

The agency’s science and laboratory science divisions, which play a crucial role in investigating and tracking public health threats such as Covid, will also report to the CDC director.

The CDC is also creating an Office of Equity to ensure the agency’s workforce reflects the American population and better communicates public health advice to all groups.

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