A serious man in a business suit grimaces.
Enlarge / CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

Famend public well being professional and former head of the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention William Foege penned a personal letter to present director Robert Redfield final month. It included a determined plea: break freed from the Trump administration’s political meddling, proper the CDC’s course, and brace for a fiery finish.

“The White Home will, in fact, reply with fury,” Dr. Foege wrote of his plan, first made public by USA Right this moment Tuesday. “However you should have proper in your facet. Like Martin Luther, you possibly can say, ‘Right here I stand, I can not do in any other case.’” Peacefully resigning won’t be sufficient to drive change, Foege added. “Once they hearth you, this might be a multi-week story and you’ll maintain your head excessive.”

Foege, a former CDC director beneath the Carter and Reagan administrations, has not been a vocal critic of the Trump administration. However, in his letter to Dr. Redfield, he didn’t maintain again on his acerbic take of how the White Home had dealt with the pandemic whereas damaging and sidelining the CDC within the course of.

“Regardless of the White Home spin makes an attempt, this may go down as a colossal failure of the general public well being system of this nation,” Foege wrote, calling the nation’s poor response a “tragedy” and  “a slaughter… not only a political dispute.”

“The general public well being texts of the longer term will use this as a lesson on how to not deal with an infectious illness pandemic… The trigger would be the incompetence and illogic of the White Home program,” he added.

However Foege’s letter wasn’t merely a rebuke of the administration’s response. In it, he drew upon his in depth and extensively revered profession in public well being—serving to to eradicate smallpox, working to spice up childhood vaccination, preventing Guinea worm illness, polio, and measles, and dealing to get rid of river blindness. And he pinpointed precisely what went flawed with the COVID-19 response, in addition to what must be completed to proper it.


“The failure of the White Home to place CDC in cost has resulted within the violation of each lesson discovered within the final 75 years that made CDC the gold commonplace for public well being on the planet,” he wrote. After simply six months of the Trump administration’s meddling in CDC coverage and steering, “they’ve precipitated the CDC to go from gold to tarnished brass.”

Prime among the many offenses is that the Trump administration’s political meddling has led the general public and journalists to distrust info supplied by the CDC. Many have misplaced religion within the once-premier company after repeated interference, which prolonged to the company’s steering on COVID-19 testing, masks utilization, the timeline for vaccination, faculty dangers and reopening, hospital knowledge assortment, and the discharge of CDC COVID-19 case research. At this level, Foege notes, individuals flip to tutorial researchers and never the CDC for the reality.

Subsequent, Foege factors to a scarcity of a coherent federal plan, which pressured all 50 states to develop their very own particular person plans, typically in competitors with one another. This lack of cohesion prolonged to a scarcity of coalitions on public well being measures and responses—a facet of the response “ignored because the President thrives as a substitute on inflicting divisions,” he writes.

Foege additionally criticized the administration’s failure to be concerned in worldwide responses and collaboration, noting the president’s “America First” coverage—a coverage that “mocks what we discovered in Sunday Faculty and leaves us on the skin of the worldwide public well being group.”

Final, he writes, is the general public well being lesson that “one of the best selections are primarily based on one of the best science whereas one of the best outcomes are primarily based on one of the best administration.” Foege factors to the dysfunction of the White Home coronavirus job drive and its inclusion of Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has no infectious illness experience and has been described because the “anti-Fauci.” Atlas has made quite a few unsupported and troubling claims amid the pandemic and “doesn’t perceive herd immunity,” Foege notes.

“The White Home has rejected each science and good administration,” he concluded merely.

Righting the ship

To get the CDC again on observe and in a spot the place it could actually quash the nation’s COVID-19 epidemic, Foege advises Redfield to ship a letter to each CDC worker. “In the intervening time, they really feel you accepted the White Home orders with out enough resistance,” he wrote, noting that he’s in contact with many present and former CDC staff. The letter ought to lay out precisely how the White Home sidelined the director of the CDC, Foege wrote.

“You may, upfront, acknowledge the tragedy of responding poorly, apologize for what has occurred and your function in acquiescing, set a course for the way CDC would now lead the nation if there was no political interference, give them the power to report such interference to a impartial ombudsman, and guarantee them that you’ll defend their makes an attempt to avoid wasting this nation,” he wrote. “Don’t draw back from the actual fact this has been an unacceptable toll on our nation. It’s a slaughter and never simply political dispute.”

And as for Redfield’s personal legacy on this historic pandemic, Foege cautions: “You don’t wish to be seen sooner or later as forsaking your function as a servant to the general public with a purpose to turn into a servant to a corrupt president.”

This effort might be troublesome and can lead to termination, Foege acknowledged in his letter. However it’s an announcement that might change course of the pandemic. Although Foege despatched the letter to Redfield final month, in an interview with USA Right this moment, he held out hope: “Dr. Redfield may nonetheless be a savior in all of this.”


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