UW expert: CDC ‘hopelessly compromised’ by White House in virus response
After the Trump Administration removed guidance from the CDC regarding the spread of COVID-19 from singing in choirs in places of worship, local health experts have spoken out against what they say is a troubling pattern of behavior.
“[This is] further evidence that the CDC has become hopelessly compromised by leadership that buckles to political pressure from the White House, instead of upholding the agency’s mission,” University of Washington biology professor Carl Bergstrom tweeted Thursday.
We need the CDC to provide its public health guidance as an impartial and scientifically excellent institution.
If the White House then wants to avoid strong action based on CDC's advice, so be it.
The institution would remain a national and even worldwide treasure.
— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) May 29, 2020
Earlier in May, it was revealed that guidelines from the CDC for how states could safely reopen were buried by the White House, with one official saying they would “never see the light of day.”
That’s part of a strategy that Bergstrom labels as deeply problematic when it comes to keeping the public informed.
“The CDC isn’t supposed to adapt their advice to political whims, and it’s outrageous that the White House demands such,” he detailed, likening it to “gouging out your eyes to avoid seeing bad news.”
“It works momentarily, but the bad news doesn’t disappear, and now you no longer have the advantage of sight in responding,” he added.
Beyond that, there’s a concern over the large-scale effects of editing messaging from the CDC to fit a political narrative.
“My worry is not only the short-term effects, but sowing the seeds of mistrust in the policies of this venerable public health organization will only hurt all of us for years to come,” Seattle Fred Hutchinson researcher Dr. Steve Pergam said. “It is disheartening, as we need a CDC that is driven by policies to save lives, not by politics.”
Pergam has been outspoken throughout the pandemic against the CDC largely being sidelined in daily briefings, as well as the lack of medical professionals being publicly involved in the White House’s coronavirus response.
“[Medical professionals] should be at the forefront — not politicians,” he said in late March.