CDC scientists did not write a critically acclaimed recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month about who should be tested for coronavirus and despite their serious objections were posted on the agency’s website as internal documents obtained by the New York Times, according to many people familiar with the matter.
The guideline states that people without Kovid-19 symptoms do not need to be tested even if they are infected with the virus. It came at a time when public health professionals were trying for more or less tests, and administration officials told the Times that the document was a CDC product and had been modified. With input from Agency Director Dr. Robert Redfield.
But officials told the Times this week that the Department of Health had rewritten it and “left” it on the CDC’s public website, violating the agency’s strict scientific review policy.
“This is a top-down document from HHS and the Task Force,” a federal official who is aware of the issue referred to the White House Task Force on Coronavirus. “That policy does not reflect what most people at the CDC think of as policy.”
The document contained “primary errors” – referring to a test for the virus as opposed to a “test for Kovid-19” – and recommendations made contrary to the CDC’s position were written by agency scientists who did not recognize anyone, according to a senior CDC scientist, who spoke out on anonymity due to fears of repercussions.
Admit Brett Giroir, test coordinator of the administration and assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, CDC’s parent company, said in an interview on Thursday that the original draft came from the CDC, but he “coordinated from the editing and input of the scientific and medical members of the task force. ”
Over the course of a month, the draft went through about 20 versions with comments from Dr. Redfield; Top members of the White House Task Force, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birks; And Dr. Scott Atlas, an adviser to President Trump on the coronavirus. Admiral Giroir said the members submitted the document to Task Force Chief Vice President Mike Pence.
He said he did not know why the recommendation exceeded the general CDC scientific review. “I think you should ask about Dr. Redfield. It’s definitely not any direction from me,” he said.
Dr. Redfield was not reached for comment.
As the country approaches 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, the question of the CDC’s independence and impact as the nation’s top public health agency continues to grow, and Mr. Trump continues to criticize its scientists and ignore their expectations.
The new version of the test guideline, which will be posted on Friday, has not even been cleared by a routine internal review of the CDC’s scientific papers and has been revised by health and human services officials, an unauthorized federal official told reporters after the meeting.
Similarly, a document, “The importance of reopening schools, ”Was also posted on the CDC website by the Department of Health and Human Services in July and came out in earnest with the general neutral and scientific tone of the CDC, officials said.
The information comes just days after it was revealed that political appointments had been made in the HHS Interfered with the CDC’s vigilant weekly reports On scientific research.
“The idea of someone writing guidelines at HHS and posting them on the CDC banner is absolutely cool,” said Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control in 2009.
Dr. Thomas R., director of the agency during the Obama administration. Frieden said, “Writing HHS and the White House ‘scientifically incorrect statements like’ Do not test all contacts’ on the CHC website is like someone with graffiti destroying a national monument.”
Most CDC documents are still carefully created and examined and are valuable to the public, but politically motivated messages combined with public health recommendations can weaken an organization, Dr. Frieden said. “Graffiti makes the whole monument look very bad,” he said.
Current Guidelines on testing, Posted on August 24, said that people without symptoms “do not need to be tested” even if they have been in contact with an infected person for more than 15 minutes. Public health professionals The CDC has been severely criticized For that attitude, it claims to weaken attempts to contain the virus.
Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, says that “indicating that the asymptomatic does not require testing is a prescription for community outbreaks and further disease and death,” which usually works with CDC.
Some experts said the recommendation was politically motivated to make the number of confirmed cases appear to be lower than that.
Dr. Redfield later tried to withdraw the recommendation, saying that the test “could be considered for all close acquaintances” and only his efforts Added to the confusion. The language on the CDC website has not changed.
Infectious Diseases Society of America, generally a close partner of the CDC The recommendation was criticized In the exam. “We communicated it to CDC and HHS, but I did not see any signs that they were going to change it,” said Amanda Zezek, the company’s senior vice president.
At a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Dr Redfield said the agency was revising the recommendation and would post a review saying “hopefully by the end of the week.” The review was written by a CDC scientist, but was revised Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, a federal official familiar with the matter said.
Dr Redfield said in a hearing Wednesday that vaccines will not be widely distributed until next year and that face covering will be more effective than vaccines – Mr Trump Was severely criticized at the press conference On Wednesday evening, Dr. Redfield said he had “made a mistake.”
The director was described by CDC employees and outsiders as a weak and useless leader who could not prevent the agency from interfering in its science or from growing public distrust within the agency.
“It feels like a setup,” said a CDC scientist, who many in the agency attribute to the administration’s unpopular policies.
“CDC scientists are scared,” said Scott Becker, chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “They can do nothing to get them out of this blame game.”
Disease control centers are also often criticized during the epidemic for being too slow and careful in issuing recommendations to deal with coronavirus. Each document was cleared by at least one of the agency’s multiple relevant teams to ensure that the information was in line with “current CDC data, as well as other scientific literature,” a senior agency scientist said on condition of anonymity.
In total, each document can be cleared by 12 to 20 people within the agency. “As someone who reads them regularly and writes things with CDC, I can tell you that the clearance process is painful, but it can be useful,” said Carlos del Rio, an epidemiologist at Emory University. “It’s very detailed and very careful and they improve the documents very clearly.”
At least eight versions of the current test guideline were distributed in the agency in early August, officials said. But the objections of the staff scientists on this document were not heard. A senior CDC official told scientists, “We do not have the capacity to make significant edits,” according to an email received by the Times. The test guideline was quietly published on the agency’s website on August 24.
Following the publication of the new guideline, media inquiries into its contents were sent to the Department of Health and Human Services, spec triggers haganas About its origins. CDC asked scientists to make sure other pages on the website were in line with the new recommendations. The “Talking Points” memo was distributed to the agency on September 1, indicating to employees that the CDC was involved in developing new guidelines that were “re-shared with HHS and the White House Task Force with suggested comments and amendments.”
In the opinion of experts familiar with the agency’s policies, no such reference is required if the CDC staff wrote this document. “Never seen that talking point before,” said one CDC scientist.
“It is recommended that only more than 10 people (without wearing a public mask or physical distance) attending a public or private meeting be tested if they are” vulnerable. Said a CDC scientist familiar with the agency’s policies.
The guidance is also in the section intended for health care workers and laboratories, but is aimed at the general public and makes numerous references to “your health care provider”.
“We’re too lazy,” the scientist said. “It kills me. It didn’t come from the inside.”
Experts working with the CDC said the mistakes were obvious.
“You got into the habit of reading Shakespeare and suddenly now you are reading the tabloid,” Dr. Del Rio said. “There has been political pressure on the CDC in the past, but I think it is unprecedented.”
Sharon Lafronier and Michael D. Contributed to Sheer Reporting.