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USA | Aug 17, 2022

US CDC plans to focus on public health response after pandemic failings

/ Our Today

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A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. (File Photo: REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

(Reuters)

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it will prioritise its public health response in a revamp of its structure after months of criticism over its handling of the COVID-19 and monkeypox pandemics.

A briefing document provided by the agency today (August 17) said an external report into its response found public guidance had caused confusion, while important information were sometimes released too late to inform federal decisions.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in response that the agency was undertaking a series of changes designed to make it more nimble at responding, quicker at providing data and less focused on publishing fully vetted scientific papers.

“I want us all to do better and it starts with CDC leading the way.”

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Walensky told CDC staff.

“I want us all to do better and it starts with CDC leading the way,” she said, adding that the focus will be on creating an “action-oriented” culture that emphasises accountability, collaboration, communication and timeliness.

According to a background briefing document shared with Reuters, plans to modernise the agency include giving the CDC new authority to require states to report data and changes that will allow the CDC to hire staff more quickly and offer more competitive salaries. Both actions will require authorisation from Congress.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (File Photo: Susan Walsh/Pool via REUTERS)

As part of the changes, the CDC will name Mary Wakefield, former acting deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, to lead a team to help implement the restructuring, the agency said.

The steps follow the external review ordered by Walensky in April of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To encourage faster communication, Walensky wants to create an online mechanism to share findings before they are completely published and expedite the data review process.

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