Incoming CDC director vows to tell the truth, restore trust

Incoming CDC director vows to tell the truth, restore trust
© Getty Images

The incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vowed in a New York Times op-ed published Monday to tell the public the truth, “even when the news is bleak.”

Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyStudy: Older Americans saw larger declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths after vaccine became available Overnight Health Care: Biden 'very confident' in Fauci amid conservative attacks | House Dems press Biden on global vaccinations | CDC director urges parents to vaccinate adolescents New York plans to loosen school mask rules as soon as Monday MORE, President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE’s pick to lead the embattled agency, acknowledged the CDC will have to work “very hard to restore public trust.” 

“It has been undermined over the last year. In that time, numerous reports stated that White House officials interfered with official guidance issued by the CDC,” she wrote. 


“As I start my new duties, I will tell the president, Congress and the public what we know when we know it, and I will do so even when the news is bleak, or when the information may not be what those in the administration want to hear.” 

Walensky, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, will replace Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldRedfield says he thinks virus 'evolved' in lab to transmit better Ex-CDC director Redfield says he received death threats from fellow scientists over COVID-19 theory Fauci may have unwittingly made himself a key witness for Trump in 'China Flu' hate-speech case MORE, President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE’s pick for the job in 2018, who has come under heavy criticism for not defending his agency from attacks by Trump.

Walensky, 51, is renowned in the public health field for her work on HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, including COVID-19. 

Walensky wrote she would lead with “facts, science and integrity.” 

She pointed to reports indicating that White House officials interfered with official CDC guidance. 


“The C.D.C.’s science — the gold standard for the nation’s public health — has been tarnished,” she wrote. 

“Hospitals, doctors, state health officials and others rely on the guidance of the C.D.C., not just for Covid-19 policies around quarantine, isolation, testing and vaccination, but also for staying healthy while traveling, strategies to prevent obesity, information on food safety and more.” 

On her first day, which is Jan. 20, Walensky will ask Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, to begin a “comprehensive review” to ensure all existing CDC guidance related to COVID-19 is “evidence-based and free of politics.” 

Walensky also vowed to address chronic underfunding of the public health system, which has been highlighted by the pandemic. 

“Last year demonstrated how a frail, poorly tended public health infrastructure can bring a great country to its knees. Public health has been diminished and underfunded for years,” she wrote.  

“More funds will surely be needed to increase the pace of the vaccine rollout; to strengthen data reporting, management and analytics; and to conduct proper surveillance not just of this virus but also of future pathogenic threats.”