Renowned public well being knowledgeable and former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention William Foege penned a private letter to present director Robert Redfield final month. It included a determined plea: break away of the Trump administration’s political meddling, right the CDC’s course, and brace for a fiery finish.
“The White House will, of course, respond with fury,” Dr. Foege wrote of his plan, first made public by USA Today Tuesday. “But you will have right on your side. Like Martin Luther, you can say, ‘Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.’” Peacefully resigning is not going to be sufficient to pressure change, Foege added. “When they fire you, this will be a multi-week story and you can hold your head high.”
Foege, a former CDC director underneath the Carter and Reagan administrations, has not been a vocal critic of the Trump administration. But, in his letter to Dr. Redfield, he didn’t maintain again on his acerbic take of how the White House had dealt with the pandemic whereas damaging and sidelining the CDC in the process.
“Despite the White House spin attempts, this will go down as a colossal failure of the public health system of this country,” Foege wrote, calling the nation’s poor response a “tragedy” and “a slaughter… not just a political dispute.”
“The public health texts of the future will use this as a lesson on how not to handle an infectious disease pandemic… The cause will be the incompetence and illogic of the White House program,” he added.
But Foege’s letter wasn’t merely a rebuke of the administration’s response. In it, he drew upon his intensive and broadly revered profession in public health—serving to to eradicate smallpox, working to enhance childhood vaccination, preventing Guinea worm illness, polio, and measles, and dealing to remove river blindness. And he pinpointed precisely what went improper with the COVID-19 response, in addition to what wants to be completed to proper it.
“The failure of the White House to put CDC in charge has resulted in the violation of every lesson learned in the last 75 years that made CDC the gold standard for public health in the world,” he wrote. After simply six months of the Trump administration’s meddling in CDC coverage and steering, “they have caused 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 offered by the CDC. Many have misplaced religion in the as soon as-premier company after repeated interference, which prolonged to the company’s steering on COVID-19 testing, mask usage, the timeline for vaccination, school risks and reopening, hospital data collection, and the release of CDC COVID-19 case studies. At this level, Foege notes, individuals flip to educational researchers and never the CDC for the reality.
Next, Foege factors to a scarcity of a coherent federal plan, which compelled 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 side of the response “ignored as the President thrives instead on causing divisions,” he writes.
Foege additionally criticized the administration’s failure to be involved in international responses and collaboration, noting the president’s “America First” coverage—a coverage that “mocks what we learned in Sunday School and leaves us on the outside of the global public health community.”
Last, he writes, is the general public well being lesson that “the best decisions are based on the best science while the best results are based on the best management.” Foege factors to the dysfunction of the White House coronavirus process pressure 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 understand herd immunity,” Foege notes.
“The White House has rejected both science and good management,” he concluded merely.
Righting the ship
To get the CDC again on monitor and in a spot the place it could possibly quash the nation’s COVID-19 epidemic, Foege advises Redfield to ship a letter to each CDC worker. “At the moment, they feel you accepted the White House orders without sufficient resistance,” he wrote, noting that he’s in contact with many present and former CDC workers. The letter ought to lay out precisely how the White House sidelined the director of the CDC, Foege wrote.
“You could, upfront, acknowledge the tragedy of responding poorly, apologize for what has happened and your role in acquiescing, set a course for how CDC would now lead the country if there was no political interference, give them the ability to report such interference to a neutral ombudsman, and assure them that you will defend their attempts to save this country,” he wrote. “Don’t shy away from the fact this has been an unacceptable toll on our country. It is a slaughter and not just political dispute.”
And as for Redfield’s personal legacy in this historic pandemic, Foege cautions: “You don’t want to be seen in the future as forsaking your role as a servant to the public in order to become a servant to a corrupt president.”
This effort will be tough and can consequence in termination, Foege acknowledged in his letter. But it’s a press release that might change course of the pandemic. Though Foege despatched the letter to Redfield final month, in an interview with USA Today, he held out hope: “Dr. Redfield could still be a savior in all of this.”