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CDC to begin month-long full agency review amid criticism over COVID-19 response

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CDC to begin month-long full agency review amid criticism over COVID-19 response
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky testifies before the House COVID-19 subcommittee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 15, 2021. File Photo by Amr Alfiky/UPI | License Photo

April 11 (UPI) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will begin a month-long review and evaluation of the agency on Monday over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jim Macrae, who served as acting administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration for two years, will conduct the comprehensive review of the agency, which has been scrutinized for its handling of the outbreak.

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CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky also selected three senior officials -- acting Principal Deputy Director Deb Houry, Chief Operating Officer Robin Baily and Chief of Staff Sherri Berger -- to gather feedback and solicit suggestions.

"Over the past year, I have heard from many of you that you would like to see CDC build on its rich history and modernize for the world around us," Walensky wrote in an agency-wide email announcing the review last week.

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"I am grateful for your efforts to lean into the hard work of transforming CDC for the better. I look forward to our collective efforts to position CDC and the public health community for greatest success in the future."

Walensky said the review will focus on the CDC's core capabilities, including the public health workforce, data modernization, laboratory capacity, health equity, rapid responses to disease outbreaks and preparedness.

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"At the conclusion of this collective effort, we will develop new systems and processes to deliver our science and program to the American people, along with a plan for how the CDC should be structured to facilitate the public health work we do," she wrote in the email.

Five former CDC heads have expressed support for the review. File Photo by David Tulis/UPI

The agency has faced criticism for its response dating back to former President Donald Trump's administration, which saw a slow rollout of tests and strict requirements for testing in the early days of the pandemic amid perceived resistance from Trump to act.

Criticism has persisted under President Joe Biden, when the CDC has been criticized for releasing complicated guidance on masking, quarantining and booster doses, as well as inflexibility in adapting to variants like Omicron.

"Never in its 75-year history has [the] CDC had to make decisions so quickly, based on often limited, real-time and evolving science," Walensky said.

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"As we've challenged our state and local partners, we know that now is the time for CDC to integrate the lessons learned into a strategy for the future."

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Five former CDC heads have expressed support for the review.

"This needs to be done as rapidly as possible because, heavens, you can create a scope so big and so complicated that we could do a 10-year study and it wouldn't really be enough," said Dr. Bill Roper, who served as CDC director from 1990 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. "I think her calling for a one-month review is a very smart idea."

Reforms that include making the CDC director a Senate-confirmed, Cabinet-type post have been proposed in the Senate, and have passed its health committee with bipartisan support. The proposals are awaiting a vote in the full chamber.

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