In an unsigned editorial, The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most esteemed medical journals, slammed President Trump’s “inconsistent and incoherent national response” to the coronavirus pandemic as the death toll in the United States nears 87,000.
Pointing out that the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), once the “national pillar of public health and globally respected” has for a long time “been subject to conservative politics that have increasingly eroded the agency’s ability to mount effective, evidence-based public health responses” across several administrations, The Lancet admonishes the Trump administration for having “further chipped away at the CDC’s capacity to combat infectious diseases.”
“CDC staff in China were cut back with the last remaining CDC officer recalled home from the China CDC in July, 2019, leaving an intelligence vacuum when COVID-19 began to emerge. In a press conference on Feb 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned US citizens to prepare for major disruptions to movement and everyday life. Messonnier subsequently no longer appeared at White House briefings on COVID-19. More recently, the Trump administration has questioned guidelines that the CDC has provided. These actions have undermined the CDC’s leadership and its work during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the editorial continues, noting that despite the agency’s mistakes, “especially on testing in the early stages of the pandemic,” the Trump administration “is obsessed with magic bullets—vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear.”
“But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency. The CDC needs a director who can provide leadership without the threat of being silenced and who has the technical capacity to lead today’s complicated effort,” The Lancet warns.
The editorial concludes that the Trump administration’s “further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO. ”
Moreover, “A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”
The Lancet‘s editorial comes just days after The Daily Beast reported that the president and members of the White House coronavirus task force are pressuring CDC officials to change “how the agency works with states to count coronavirus-related deaths.”
The report notes that Trump and his associates are “pushing for revisions that could lead to far fewer deaths being counted than originally reported, according to five administration officials working on the government’s response to the pandemic.”
The CDC has pushed back against the president’s suggestions that the official death toll was “incorrectly tallied or even inflated by current methodology.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.