CDC director calls for drastic changes to agency

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The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said the agency must make drastic changes to respond better and faster to public health emergencies, following missteps made during the Covid pandemic.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky outlined the changes in broad terms in an email sent to CDC employees Wednesday afternoon. Those include an overhaul of how the agency analyzes and shares data, as well as changes to how the CDC quickly communicates information to the public.

The agency has faced widespread criticism throughout the pandemic for its slow responses and often confusing messaging on masking and other mitigation measures.

“In our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Walensky said in a statement.

“My goal is a new, public health action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication, and timeliness,” she wrote. “I want us all to do better and it starts with CDC leading the way.”

The announcement follows a review of the agency, launched by Walensky in April, “to refine and modernize” the agency, she wrote in the email to employees. Walensky tapped a longtime official within the Department of Health and Human Services, Jim Macrae, to lead the review.

To meet that goal, Walensky wrote that the agency must share data more quickly and in a way that speaks to the American public in easy-to-understand language. It’s also anticipated that leadership changes and reorganizations will occur.

“As we move forward, these changes will require a cultural shift,” the email stated.

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