White House: Nobel laureates furloughed

Four of five Nobel Prize winners now in the employ of the federal government have been furloughed, as research grinds to a halt at agencies darkened by the lingering shutdown, the White House said.

In a briefing from White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, President Obama was told late Saturday that the budget impasse has all but halted work at the nation’s research agencies.

That includes the Nobel Prize-winners, “all of whom are world-renowned scientists and leaders in their field,” according to the White House.

“Four of them are currently furloughed and unable to conduct their federal research on behalf of the American public due to the government shutdown,” the administration said.  

Two-thirds of workers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been sent home, as the agency cuts back effort to monitor influenza cases at the approach of peak flu season.

Last week, CDC Director Thomas Frieden lamented the shutdown’s impact via his Twitter feed. 
“CDC had to furlough 8,754 people. They protected you yesterday, can’t tomorrow,” Frieden tweeted after the shutdown took effect. “Microbes/other threats didn’t shut down. We are less safe.”

Meanwhile, 98 percent of the National Science Foundation’s personnel has been furloughed and new scientific research grants are not being issued,” the White House said.

At the National Institutes for Health, three-quarters of workers are no longer on the job. The NIH’s Clinical Center remains open for patients already enrolled in studies, but most new patients have been turned away during the shutdown.

“NIH will continue to monitor its admissions policy and adjust as necessary based on life and safety considerations, depending on the duration of the shutdown,” according to the White House.

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