Enlarge /. CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield.
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Renowned public health expert and former director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention William Foege wrote a private letter to current director Robert Redfield last month. It included a desperate plea: to get rid of the political interference of the Trump administration, correct the CDC's course, and prepare for a fiery end.
"The White House will of course react with anger," wrote Dr. Foege on his plan, first published Tuesday by USA Today. “But you will be right on your side. Like Martin Luther, you can say: "Here I stand, I can't do anything else." Peaceful resignation will not be enough to force change, Foege added. "If they fire you, this will be a several week story and you can keep your head up."
Foege, a former CDC director under the Carter and Reagan administrations, was not a vocal critic of the Trump administration. In his letter to Dr. However, he did not hold back Redfield on how the White House had dealt with the pandemic while it damaged and incapacitated the CDC.
"Despite the spin attempts in the White House, this will go down as a colossal failure of the country's public health system," wrote Foege, describing the country's poor response as a "tragedy" and "slaughter … not just a political dispute". ”
"In future public health texts this is used as a lesson on how not to deal with a pandemic infection … The cause will be the incompetence and illogic of the White House program," he added.
Foege's letter, however, was not just a reproof of the government's reply. In it, he drew on his extensive and widely revered public health career – helping eradicate smallpox, promoting child vaccination, combating Guinea worm disease, polio and measles, and eradicating river blindness. And he figured out exactly what went wrong with the COVID-19 response and what needs to be done to correct it.
"The White House's failure to mandate the CDC has resulted in a violation of all the lessons learned over the past 75 years that have made the CDC the gold standard for public health in the world," he wrote. After just six months of meddling by the Trump administration in CDC policies and guidelines, "they have caused the CDC to move from gold to tarnished brass."
One of the major offenses is that political interference by the Trump administration has led the public and journalists to distrust the information provided by the CDC. Many have lost trust in the former premier agency after repeated interventions, including the agency's guidelines on COVID-19 testing, mask use, vaccination schedule, school risks and reopening, hospital data collection, and CDC COVID publication. 19 case studies. At this point, Foege says, people turn to academic researchers, not the CDC, for the truth.
Foege next points out the lack of a coherent federal plan that forced all 50 states to develop their own individual plans, often in competition with one another. This lack of cohesion has led to a lack of coalitions for public health action and response – an aspect of the response "ignored as the president lives instead by creating divisions," he writes.
Foege also criticized the government's failure to engage in international response and cooperation, citing the president's "America First" policy – a policy that "mocks what we learned in Sunday school and ourselves outside of the global public health community ".
Most recently, he writes, public health says, "The best decisions are based on the best science, while the best results are based on the best management." Foege points to the dysfunction of the White House's coronavirus task force and involvement Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has no experience with infectious diseases and has been called "anti-fauci". Atlas has made numerous unsupported and worrying claims amid the pandemic and "doesn't understand herd immunity," notes Foege.
"The White House has rejected both science and good management," he concluded simply.
Raise the ship
To get the CDC going again and in a place where it can quell the country's COVID-19 epidemic, Foege advises Redfield to send a letter to every CDC employee. "At the moment you feel that you have taken White House orders without sufficient resistance," he wrote, noting that he is in contact with many current and former CDC officials. The letter was supposed to detail how the White House got the director of the CDC out of the way, Foege wrote.
“You could acknowledge the tragedy of the poor response beforehand, apologize for what happened and your role in giving consent, set the stage for how the CDC would run the country now if there was no political interference, and give them the opportunity to report such interference to a neutral ombudsman and assure them that you will defend their attempts to save this country, ”he wrote. "Don't be afraid of the fact that this has been an unacceptable burden on our country. It's a slaughter, not just a political argument."
And as for Redfield's own legacy in this historic pandemic, Foege warns, "You do not want to be seen in the future as a departure from your role as a public servant to become a servant of a corrupt president."
These efforts will be difficult and result in termination, Foege admitted in his letter. But it's a statement that could change the course of the pandemic. Although Foege sent the letter to Redfield in an interview with USA Today last month, he hoped, “Dr. Redfield could still be a savior in all of this. "