Director of CDC Vows to Improve COVID Communication
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The CDC has been unable to communicate clearly and provide COVID-19 guidelines during the pandemic. The agency can do better, Rochelle Walensky, MD director of the CDC said in The Wall Street Journal.
The pandemic threw curveballs that she could have anticipated, she said, and she should have communicated to the public that new guidelines could change quickly as the pandemic changes.
“I believe that what I haven’t conveyed is the uncertainty of is a part of these circumstances,” she said to the newspaper in an exclusive interview, as the 1-year mark in the tenure of her tenure as CDC director approaches on Wednesday.
Walensky said she is determined to communicate CDC policy more clearly. A media consultant is coaching her and she plans to hold additional media briefings which are separate from those of the White House COVID-19 response team. Health experts have suggested separate CDC briefings that highlight the agency’s role as an independent and scientific voice in the pandemic according to the Journal.
Public health experts have criticized Walensky and CDC for not communicating guidelines for mask-wearing and isolation requirements. The newspaper reported that some officials from the Biden administration said that the agency’s revised guidelines is sometimes difficult to understand.
The CDC issued confusing guidelines in the past month in December, because the Omicron variant of the contagious triggered an increase in infections across the nation. On Dec. 27 the agency cut the isolation time in half for those who do not have symptoms However, public health experts said that stopping isolation after five days without a positive COVID-19 test could be a risk if people were still infected.
On Jan. 4 The CDC updated its guidelines with new guidelines for those who would like to take a test prior to leaving isolation — but it didn’t mandate that people undergo testing. The guidelines were updated again on Jan. 9 with more details regarding monitoring symptoms and ways to calculate days of isolation.
Walensky said the guidelines for isolation were based on more than 100 studies that researched the Alpha and Delta variants and the latest reports from health facilities. The research was conducted prior to the Omicron variant’s surge across the globe.
She said to the Journal that she felt the need to act prior to when Omicron-specific information was available.
Walensky and other officials observed that people needed help on how to use the rapid tests to determine if they are still a risk to others. The CDC added information on testing to its website in January. She noted that the FDA’s rapid tests aren’t intended for isolation testing. They should be repeated over several days. But the American public demanded direction.
She said, “If you are positive it’s probably best to remain at home.” “But positive doesn’t always mean you’re not infectious. We needed to be very clear about that.”
Walensky also stated that she plans to address the shortcomings in national data collection. The CDC receives reports from local and state systems, which are inconsistent, and public health officials have claimed that the absence of a central system has led to a slow response to the Delta and Omicron spikes that occur during the pandemic, according to the newspaper.
Walensky declared that less than 200 hospitals had their electronic health records linked to the CDC’s data collection system before the outbreak. Certain states were not able to provide electronic reports on positive cases of COVID-19 in the beginning of the epidemic, so they were forced to send faxes. Some states provided positive results prior to negative ones because they didn’t have the capacity to enter all the cases.
Now, tens and thousands of institutions have upgraded their electronic records systems, Walensky said, in part because of federal funds. There is still much to be done. According to the Journal modernizing the national public data infrastructure for the federal government as well as the country’s 3,050 health department would cost $30 billion over a 10 years.
“This will not be over with COVID,” Walensky said. “This is not a one-and-done effort.”
The Wall Street Journal The Wall Street Journal “CDC Director Strives To Improve Covid-19 Communication, Collection.”
CDC: “COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Updated January. 9 2022.”