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CDC director turns to media consultant as Covid-19 messaging frustrations mount

CDC director turns to media consultant as Covid-19 messaging frustrations mount
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Over the course of months, Walinsky has met privately with prominent Democratic media advisor Mandy Grunwald to improve her communication skills and continues to do so, according to a person familiar with the previously unreported sessions. On Friday, Walinsky will hold the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s first independent briefing since the summer after deciding abruptly this week that she wanted to answer questions “directly,” according to a person familiar with her decision to hold the briefing.

“We’re in an unprecedented time where omicron cases are accelerating, and we’re working hard to get information to the American public, balancing that with the reality we all live in,” Walnsky said.

“This is challenging, and I am committed to continuing to improve as we learn more about the science and connect with all of you.”

Since taking the role, Walensky has worked to improve her internal communications and sought to develop better messaging approaches, according to officials. However, there is still discontent among both administration aides and outside public health experts at some of the ways the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has communicated its decisions as the pandemic enters what officials consider a new phase.

Meanwhile, between Wallinsky circumventing some of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s stringent scrutiny for new guidelines and public criticism, morale at the public health agency is sinking.

When asked if there was a credibility issue with the CDC on Friday on NBC’s “Today,” Walensky said the agency is moving with the flag.

“We at the CDC have 12,000 people working 24/7 following the science, with an ever-evolving nature, in the midst of a really fast-spreading pandemic,” she said during one of the interviews given before the briefing. “And we do that, head down, to keep America safe. And we’ll keep updating. And we’ll keep improving how we communicate with the American public. This is a fast-evolving science.”

CNN has reached out to the CDC for comment. The White House declined to comment, citing a statement released Wednesday from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Asked if Biden trusts Walinsky, Psaki told reporters, “He has confidence in the scientific expertise, the medical expertise of the team at the CDC. And he believes that the American people have a desire and a need for us to confront this pandemic, led by data and science. And that’s what He will continue to rely on him.”

Frustration of changing routing

The latest setback in the letters occurred last month when the CDC lowered the recommended isolation period for those with Covid-19 to five days, and recommended that people who test positive continue to wear a mask in public for an additional five days. Confusion ensued, with some outside experts urging the CDC to add a recommendation for a rapid antigen test at the end of the first five days.

Behind the scenes, other federal public health officials have also questioned the decision not to include testing. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor on Covid-19, and US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy have both publicly made clear clarifications are coming.

Amid the public backlash, Walinsky sought to reassure fellow top federal health officials, telling Fauci and Murthy that the lack of a testing requirement in isolation guidelines was not driven by a nationwide shortage of testing, a person familiar with the discussions said.

Instead, she insisted, rapid antigen tests were simply not a reliable enough indicator of infection, and indicated to her colleagues that the FDA had not approved the tests for this purpose.

“We actually don’t know how our rapid tests work and how well they predict whether you will pass through the end of the disease,” she told CNN.

The explanation did not sit well with FDA officials, who—despite issuing a vague statement around the same time about the sensitivity of the rapid antigen tests to Omicron that lacked specifics in specifics—were concerned that its comments could cast doubt on the reliability of the rapid tests.

“When you lead an agency like this, the gravity of your words is much heavier than if you were just commenting on them,” a US administration official later told CNN.

Avoid traditional CDC operations

After working on the guidance with her circle of advisors, Walinsky called an emergency meeting of officials leading the CDC’s Covid-19 Incident Management System on the eve of the new guidance being issued to inform them of upcoming guidance, according to the CDC. world.

“It takes away this consultative process that we’ve always had, that kind of letting us make sure our knowledge was good,” said the scientist.

Officials at the meeting were told not to share the new guidelines with state health officials in a weekly call the next day, which occurred just hours before the CDC released a statement announcing the changes.

“It is clear that the lack of participation and consultation on this (new directive) has contributed to much of the anger,” the scientist said.

After Walenksy spent a week steadfastly defending the agency’s decision not to include a recommendation for a rapid test after five days, the CDC changed tack, telling people with access to rapid tests to continue to isolate if they decide to get tested and get a positive result. But the new guidelines did not explicitly recommend that people should be tested.

“It became very clear that people were interested in using the rapid tests – albeit not authorized for this purpose – for this purpose after their isolation period ended. And because there was interest in using them for this reason, we then provided guidance on how to use them,” Walinsky told CNN. During a briefing on the Corona virus on Wednesday.

The latest update also urged people who have been out of the five-day isolation period to avoid travel for another five days and not eat in restaurants.

These updates only emerged after Walensky and her team tasked CDC experts with turning the press release announcing the changes into official public health guidance, a process that typically occurs before a press release is issued.

The CDC didn’t do a good job of testing after five days of isolation in the medical community.

“Nearly two years into this pandemic, with cases of omicron spreading across the country, the American people must be able to rely on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for accurate, precise, and clear, timely guidance to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.” Instead, the new recommendations on quarantine and isolation are not only confusing, but risk greater spread of the virus,” the American Medical Association said in a statement.

‘They think about their messages’

In some ways, the disconnect with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a permanent disconnect between a process that is political in nature and one led by public health experts.

Current and former senior administration officials said the White House is frustrated with the CDC over its message of public health guidance, even as they acknowledge that the agency’s decisions have sound support. Meanwhile, some scientists at the CDC feel that the new guidance that Walinsky applies is not sufficiently informed by science and overly taking into account political and economic considerations.

However, the White House aims to stick to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s laissez-faire approach, in an effort to differentiate itself with the previous administration and avoid any impression that they are influencing public health actions led by government scientists.

“I think they’re very cautious and they think about their messages too much,” a former senior Biden administration official said of the CDC. “They are smart people and they are guilty of being in a little bubble and over-thinking things.”

While the CDC’s latest guidance on isolation amounts to the clearest example of the agency’s public messaging problems, former officials said previous CDC messages — including masks — have been a source of frustration and frustration within the White House.

“They make decisions in isolation with the agency — or even within a small group within the agency — and then they wait until the last minute to tell everyone it’s coming, so they rush out without getting reasonable feedback from people who can help address it,” an administration official told CNN. Other Federal Health Agencies.

In May, Walinsky said that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks indoors, only to reverse course a few months later when new information showed that even those with all the recommended shots could still transmit the virus.

The White House was also forced to explain Walinsky’s comments in February that teachers do not need to be fully vaccinated for schools to open; A day later, Psaki said Walinsky was speaking “in a personal capacity.”

White House officials have been loath to blame Walensky squarely, pointing instead to the CDC’s longstanding institutional issues and an overly cautious approach among scientists there, which they believe leads to overly complex or incomplete public health guidelines.

“The White House is as frustrated with the CDC as there is sand on the beach,” said the former official. “It’s an old thing.”

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