A damning new assessment concluded that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responded too slowly to the covid outbreak, necessitating a reorganization.
Director of the CDC Rochelle Walensky told agency employees on Wednesday that they must prioritize public health requirements and outbreak control and place less attention on the publication of research articles on rare diseases.
Walensky stated, “When it mattered most, our performance did not consistently exceed expectations.” “I want everyone to do better, and the CDC must set the example”
Wednesday, Walensky informed the agency’s workers of the changes.
She stated that the program was led by the CDC and not by the White House or other administration officials.
Walensky told The Associated Press, “I feel it is my job to bring this agency to a better place after a particularly hard three years.”
The CDC is an Atlanta-based government agency with a $12 billion budget and more than 11,000 personnel tasked with safeguarding Americans against disease outbreaks and other public health hazards.
It is normal for each CDC director to reorganize, but Walensky’s move is in response to a greater need for change.
The organization has long been accused for being excessively sluggish, focusing on data collecting and analysis rather than swiftly responding to emerging health problems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, public discontent with the agency skyrocketed.
The CDC was sluggish to realize how much virus was entering the United States from Europe, to urge that people wear masks, to state that the virus can transmit through the air, and to increase systematic testing for new strains, according to experts.
The decision is the outcome of a review requested by Walensky in April after the CDC was heavily criticized for its contradictory messages regarding the covivirus-19 pandemic. The agency’s advice on masking and other mitigation steps were convoluted and unclear.
According to a briefing material sent by the CDC to the New York Times, the public guidance regarding the pandemic has been “confusing and overpowering.”
A CDC official told the Wall Street Journal that the assessment indicated the agency should be more honest about what it does and does not know, and that the CDC often takes too long to disseminate decision-making data.
There were also personnel shortages, as the CDC’s covid team leaders rotated out every few months.
Walensky, who became director in January 2021, has long argued that the agency must move more quickly and communicate more effectively, but blunders have persisted during her term.
Her plan for reorganization must be approved by the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) anticipate having a comprehensive package of changes developed, approved, and implemented by early next year.
Some adjustments are still being finalized, however the following actions were revealed on Wednesday:
Instead of waiting for research to undergo peer review and publication in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, increase the use of preprint scientific papers to disseminate relevant data.
Restructuring the agency’s communications office and redesigning the CDC’s websites will make the agency’s public recommendations more transparent and accessible.
A minimum of six months will now be committed to outbreak response by agency executives in an effort to solve a problem with turnover that at times led to knowledge gaps and hindered agency communications.
The formation of a new executive council to assist Walensky in determining strategies and priorities.
Mary Wakefield is appointed as senior counselor to administer the adjustments. Wakefield led the Health Resources and Services Administration and was the HHS’s No. 2 administrator during the Obama administration. Wakefield, 68, began work on Monday.
Changing the organisational structure of the agency to undo the changes made by the Trump administration.
In addition to a higher-level office on health equity, establishing an office of intergovernmental affairs to facilitate partnerships with other agencies.
Walensky also stated that she plans to “eliminate some of the existing reporting tiers and strive to break down some of the silos.”
She did not elaborate, but she highlighted that the overall changes are less about redrawing the organization chart and more about reconsidering how the CDC conducts business and inspires its employees.
She stated, “This will not be as simple as moving boxes” on the organizational chart.
“My goal is to create a new action-oriented public health culture at the CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness,” stated Walensky.
James Macrae, who has held high posts at the Department of Health and Human Services, which supervises the CDC, headed the external study.