April 5, 2022
The CDC announced plans on Monday to revamp the agency following criticism of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Washington Post.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, sent an agency-wide email on Monday afternoon, saying she has hired a senior federal health official from outside the CDC to conduct a one-month review.
The initial review will “kick off an evaluation of CDC’s structure, systems and processes,” Walensky wrote, noting that “it is time to step back and strategically position CDC to support the future of public health.”
Since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the CDC has come under fire for its COVID-19 response, the newspaper reported, including initial delays on developing a reliable coronavirus test, early limits on who could get tested, and other missteps attributed to Trump administration interference. During the Biden administration, the CDC has been criticized for publishing guidance that caused confusion around isolation and quarantine requirements, masks, testing, and vaccine booster doses.
“Over the past year, I have heard from many of you that you would like to see CDC build on its rich history and modernize for the world around us,” Walensky wrote in the email. “I look forward to our collective efforts to position CDC, and the public health community, for greatest success in the future.”
Walensky also acknowledged criticisms about the CDC’s slow-moving nature, especially with the analysis and release of real-time data.
“Never in its 75-year history has CDC had to make decisions so quickly, based on often limited, real-time and evolving science,” she said. “As we’ve challenged our state and local partners, we know that now is the time for CDC to integrate the lessons learned into a strategy for the future.”
The one-month review, slated to begin April 11, will be led by Jim Macrae, associate administrator for primary health care at the Health Resources and Services Administration. The HRSA and CDC are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Walensky also tapped three senior CDC officials — Deb Houry, acting principal deputy director; Robin Bailey, chief operating officer; and Sherri Berger, chief of staff — to gather feedback and “solicit suggestions for strategic change,” she wrote.
Walensky said the CDC revamp will focus on “core capabilities,” such as boosting the nation’s public health workforce, data modernization, laboratory capacity, health equity, rapid response to disease outbreaks, and preparedness in the U.S. and around the world.
The CDC will also streamline its coronavirus management structure, the newspaper reported. The agency’s COVID-19 response has pulled teams from across the CDC to manage day-to-day pandemic operations, but the new structure will return activities to existing offices.
The reorganization effort is intended to build on the changes made in recent months to speed up the CDC’s data reporting, health care guidance and public updates, the newspaper reported.
“Work is needed to institutionalize and formalize these approaches and to find new ways to adapt the agency’s structure to the changing environment,” Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokesperson, told The Washington Post.