Just when it looked like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID management and messaging was going to get some long-overdue oversight, President Biden made a move to protect this gargantuan example of failed bureaucracy with a proposed $22 billion in new spending for the agency, doubling its budget.
Polling last summer showed that many Americans have lost faith in the CDC. Only 32 percent of respondents in an August Gallup poll said they believed the CDC was communicating a clear path to prevent COVID infection. Pew data from January showed 60 percent of respondents found CDC recommendations confusing.
While the CDC was losing credibility, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’s watchdog, was quietly investigating the agency’s handling of the COVID crisis. On Jan. 27, the GAO delivered a rare “high risk” rating to the Department of Health and Human Services, specifically citing the CDC’s poor data management and ineffective messaging. These findings added fuel to congressional proposals to set up an independent COVID commission to examine the CDC’s performance.
The CDC’s antiquated information system, designed in 1925, could not support modeling to show how a pandemic might spread, or a real-time picture of how the COVID crisis was developing. This information would have been useful to developing an effective containment strategy. Yet, the CDC’s estimates were always days old.
By itself, this merits bad marks. We now know, however, from reporting by The New York Times, that the CDC was purposefully hiding information all the while on infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths attributable to COVID, likely making the crisis appear even more severe. And a recent study by economists at Johns Hopkins found that masking and social distancing — central in the administration’s approach to containing the spread of COVID — were completely ineffective.
Ironically, while the CDC has yet to acknowledge that much of its advice was misleading, not grounded in science, or simply wrong, the U.S. surgeon general, who heads the U.S. Public Health Service’s uniformed corps, just announced his intention to force social media companies to disgorge sources of “misinformation” that appear on their platforms.