Public/Global Health

CDC officials say ‘lives and money’ lost by delayed White House coronavirus response: report

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials said “lives and money” were lost because of the delayed coronavirus response by the White House, CNN reported Wednesday.

The CDC had proposed a global advisory against air travel about a week before an alert was published in mid-March, according to documents obtained by CNN. This delay caused the U.S. to lose vital time to fight the pandemic as 66,000 European travelers entered American airports every day.

CDC officials told CNN that the agency’s plans to combat the coronavirus pandemic were crippled by the White House, which they said prioritized politics over science. 

The delay for the global advisory is the latest reported example of the strained relationship between the agency and White House throughout the pandemic. Six mid- and higher-ranking staff members at the CDC expressed their discontent to the news outlet.

“We’ve been muzzled,” a current CDC official told the network. “What’s tough is that if we would have acted earlier on what we knew and recommended, we would have saved lives and money.”

The CDC was ready to issue the global advisory on March 5, according to a document obtained by CNN that said it was cleared internally. But the alert wasn’t made public until March 11, on the same day President Trump announced restrictions on travel from several European countries.

A Trump administration official told CNN that the CDC issued warnings and alerts by early March for specific countries hit by the pandemic.

The official added that the CDC is one of many agencies participating in the White House coronavirus task force, so its input has been represented at meetings and included in presentations at White House press briefings.

The White House and the CDC did not immediately return requests for comment.

Sources told the network the tension between the CDC and the White House began with the CDC’s fumbled effort to distribute testing in early February. The relationship worsened when CDC official Nancy Messonnier told the public that the pandemic’s “disruption to everyday life might be severe.”

Trump responded the next day by announcing Vice President Pence would lead the coronavirus task force. 

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus coronavirus deaths COVID-19 Donald Trump Mike Pence Travel advisory White House

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