They have no experience in public health. However, they oversee the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
The White House placed two political agents in the main health agency to try to control the information it disseminates about the coronavirus pandemic, while the government of Donald Trump seeks to offer a positive outlook often faced with scientific evidence.
The two people assigned to headquarters the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta in June they have no experience in public health. They received the task of look out Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency’s director, as well as scientists, according to a half-dozen CDC and government officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
The appointments were part of an effort to introduce more “politicians” into the CDC to help control its message after a handful of leaks, a government official said.
When the two people showed up in Atlanta, their duties were a mystery for the agency’s senior staff, the sources added. They didn’t even have assigned offices. Finally, Nina Witkofsky she became acting chief of staff, an influential position as Redfield’s right-hand man. The other, his deputy Trey Moeller, began attending scientific meetings, they added.
It is unclear to what extent these two individuals have affected the agency’s work, according to interviews with various CDC officials. But congressional investigators are examining that very question after accumulating evidence of political interference in CDC scientific publications, guideline documents, and online publications.
The White House declined to comment. A CDC spokesperson confirmed that Witkofsky and Moeller were working at the agency reporting Redfield, but had no further comment.
In an email to the AP, Moeller noted that “I work for Dr. Redfield, who is 100% committed to science and the thousands of incredibly dedicated CDC employees.”
During previous pandemics like Ebola, the CDC was the face of the American response to the crisis, offering science-based advice. The agency played the same role at the start of the COVID-19, but stumbled in February after the test failures virus detection sent to states. Later that month, an infectious disease expert with the agency, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, angered the government by speak frankly during a press conference on the dangers of the virus while Trump downplayed it.
In a matter of weeks the agency disappeared from the scene.
Despite this, the CDC continued to collect science-based information that crash with the White House narrative. In May, a series of leaked emails and scientific documents obtained by the AP detailed how the government buried the agency’s detailed guidelines for reopening communities booming from the pandemic. The resulting news angered the government and fueled efforts to exercise a greater control over the CDC, according to current and former officials.
Before Witkofsky and Moeller, the Trump administration had appointed other officials to the CDC in Atlanta, who were viewed with some suspicion by staff. But none of his predecessors were there to report the agency’s internal affairs to Washington, officials said.
Witkofsky and Moeller are on the list of officials that a subcommittee of the House of Representatives for the coronavirus crisis wants to interview in an investigation that began in mid-September after complaints that some members of the Trump administration prevented the CDC from publishing scientific reports. accurate during the pandemic.
The apparent intervention and political pressure from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services has caused even scientific experts to question some of the agency’s decisions.
“I do not trust on the (political appointees) who have entered the CDC. ” said Dr. Rick Bright, a federal vaccine expert who filed a wrongdoing complaint alleging that he was reassigned to a lower position because he resisted political pressure to allow the widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug Trump promoted as COVID-19 treatment.
“This is absolutely terrifying,” he added. “(This) leads to mixed signals to the population. And I think it is increasing the magnitude and duration of this whole pandemic.”