The indigenous wisdom of the Yukon suggests that if wolves are pursuing your sled, it’s a good idea to throw out a piece of meat to buy time. This advice comes to mind in trying to understand what happened last month, when Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), once one of the U.S. government’s most respected public agencies, made a public apology for its failures during the Covid pandemic. “For 75 years,” Walensky told a press gathering on August 15, “CDC and public health have been preparing for Covid-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations.”
Walensky said that the mea culpa was prompted by preliminary findings of an internal panel she appointed in April to improve CDC management. Its conclusions are not yet public. Her confession puzzled Washington’s political and bureaucratic establishment, and uncritical national media has mostly ignored her statement. After such a bombshell, one would expect appearances on television and plentiful commentary. But so far, the establishment and press are treading carefully. Why? Perhaps because they know that this initial disturbance to the pond might send ripples in their direction.