The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a new director, Dr. Mandy Cohen. Her predecessor, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, acknowledged CDC was “responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes—from testing, to data, to communications,” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, nothing indicates that Dr. Cohen has diagnosed the cause, much less prescribed a cure, for what ails the agency.
Dr. Cohen proposes restoring trust in the CDC by improving communications and “bringing the best evidence” to the public. This misses the fundamental problem.
A new study we wrote for the Paragon Health Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute reviewed the history, organization, and pandemic performance of the CDC. It identified the source of the CDC’s pandemic failures as mission creep, abetted by the lack of congressional authorization for the agency. The CDC has grown into a large, diffuse agency with priorities that are far afield from its core mission of preventing and controlling communicable disease outbreaks. This lack of focus left the agency unprepared for the pandemic and distracted it from an effective response.