Pierre E. Rollin, M.D., worked for the CDC for 27 years, retiring in 2019 as epidemiology team lead of the Viral Special Pathogens branch. In this opinion piece for STAT, he posits the CDC has been sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The public health challenge of our generation is right in front of us. SARS-CoV-2 appears to be the Andromeda strain that public health workers fear to see emerging. After many years of working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I’m perplexed, and saddened, that the agency seems to be sitting on the sidelines for this pandemic and is not building on the accumulated skills and experience from its past.
Nobody dismisses the worsening crisis or its ability to deal a potentially deadly blow to health systems and economies around the world. Health care providers throughout the U.S., emulating those in other countries, are improvising protective equipment. Bandanas are the new N95 face masks. Clinicians and other providers wait days or weeks to get the results of nasal swabs collected at great risk from patients suspected to have Covid-19. From nurseries to universities, from small businesses to large corporations, nearly everybody is, or likely will soon be, quarantined, locked down, and rightfully scared.
For decades, the CDC has been at the forefront of responding quickly to new and emerging disease threats. During previous outbreaks, teams of responders have been quickly deployed in the U.S., at the request of one or more states, as well as in remote and sometimes socially unstable places at the request of foreign governments. The mission of these teams is to guide and support local, national and international public health response efforts.
What do you think? Has the CDC been up to bat, or sitting on the bench?