“It is a slaughter”: Infectious disease icon asks CDC director to expose White House, orchestrate his own firing

Written by on October 6, 2020


A former director of the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention and public well being titan who led the eradication of smallpox requested the embattled, present CDC chief to show the failed U.S. response to the brand new coronavirus, calling on him to orchestrate his personal firing to protest White Home interference.

Dr. William Foege, a famend epidemiologist who served beneath Democratic and Republican presidents, detailed in a private letter he despatched final month to CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield his alarm over how the company has fallen in stature whereas the pandemic raged throughout America.

Foege, who has not beforehand been a vocal critic of the company’s dealing with of the novel coronavirus, referred to as on Redfield to brazenly handle the White House’s meddling in the agency’s efforts to handle the COVID-19 disaster after which settle for the political sacrifice that may observe. He really useful that Redfield decide to writing the administration’s failures — and his personal — so there was a report that might not be dismissed.

“You possibly can upfront, acknowledge the tragedy of responding poorly, apologize for what has occurred and your position in acquiescing,” Foege wrote to Redfield. He added that merely resigning with out coming clear could be inadequate. “Don’t shrink back from the very fact this has been an unacceptable toll on our nation. It’s a slaughter and never only a political dispute.”

The CDC didn’t instantly reply to a request for Redfield’s response. Redfield, an HIV/AIDS professional and former army doctor, lacked expertise operating a public well being company when Trump chosen him to move the CDC in 2018.

White Home spokesman Judd Deere didn’t reply to the contents of the letter however stated in an announcement that the CDC has not been compromised. “This dishonest narrative that the media and Democrats have created that politics is influencing choices shouldn’t be solely false however is a hazard to the American public,” Deere stated.

MORE: How the CDC failed public health officials fighting the coronavirus

Foege’s Sept. 23 letter, which was obtained by USA TODAY and has not been beforehand reported, is a placing condemnation from a legendary public well being determine who has spent a long time serving to stop the unfold of illnesses whereas incomes the respect of friends.

In an interview, Foege stated he felt compelled to put in writing to Redfield after the White Home appointed Dr. Scott Atlas to the coronavirus activity power, despite the fact that he’s not an infectious illness professional.

The Washington Put up and different retailers have reported that Atlas has endorsed the controversial technique of herd immunity, though Atlas has denied doing so. However, such stories prompted Foege, who helped efficiently steer India away from such a method through the smallpox epidemic, to succeed in out to Redfield.

Now Foege sees a chance for Redfield to assist the U.S. to show round its response to COVID-19 if he helps implement the teachings realized from a long time of preventing pandemics.

“A lot of that is the deaths. It is the deaths,” Foege advised USA TODAY, noting that he didn’t need the letter to change into public for fears that it could create a political sideshow and add to Redfield’s burden.

“Going public can solely embarrass him and it does not permit him to redeem himself,” Foege stated, explaining his motivations. “By doing this privately, he has an opportunity to do the fitting factor.”

MORE: Help USA TODAY with its contact tracing of Washington D.C.’s recent COVID outbreak

Foege’s opinion carries extraordinary weight inside a public well being group that credit him with a long time of accomplishments even past the eradication of smallpox. His public well being credentials embody serving to to enhance hundreds of thousands of lives along with his work to eradicate guinea worm illness and river blindness as government director of the Carter Heart. He additionally helped to form the general public well being efforts of the Invoice and Melinda Gates Basis.

In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions.

Nancy Cox, former director of the CDC’s influenza division, who labored on the company for 37 years, advised USA TODAY that Foege crystallized what number of scientists and specialists are feeling.

“The truth that Invoice Foege went to the difficulty to put in writing this can be a testomony to how a lot he values the status of the CDC,” Cox stated after reviewing the letter, “and the way involved he’s that the status is being besmirched by what is going on.”  

Dr. Tom Frieden, additionally a former CDC director, stated Foege shouldn’t be identified for being particularly partisan, having served in each the Carter and Reagan administrations. Frieden referred to as him the “finest CDC director in historical past.”

“Invoice Foege is the Babe Ruth of public well being,” stated Frieden, now the president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative geared toward stopping deaths from heart problems and epidemics. “Invoice Foege actually is in a league of his personal by way of accomplishment and is revered with motive by basically everybody within the public well being subject.”

Foege’s letter to Redfield lamented how the CDC’s scientific specialists have been rendered impotent throughout essentially the most important well being disaster in a century whereas a long time of expertise have been ignored.

“It will go down as a colossal failure of the general public well being system of this nation,” Foege wrote. “The largest problem in a century and we let the nation down. The general public well being texts of the long run will use this as a lesson on how to not deal with an infectious illness pandemic.”

Foege added that the CDC’s scientific status was tainted beneath White Home strain, citing examples reminiscent of publishing official steerage not rooted in science.

“The White Home has had no hesitation accountable and shame CDC, you and state governors,” he wrote. “They’ll blame you for the catastrophe. In six months, they’ve brought about CDC to go from gold to tarnished brass.”

Foege additionally described how morale among the many company’s employees had damaged down. “For the time being, they really feel you accepted the White Home orders with out enough resistance,” he wrote. “You’ve got a brief window to vary issues.”

In his letter, Foege referred to as on Redfield to take a robust, public stance towards the White Home and settle for that he would lose his job in consequence.

“After they hearth you, this shall be a multi-week story and you may maintain your head excessive. That may take distinctive braveness in your half,” Foege wrote in closing. “I am unable to let you know what to do besides to revisit your spiritual beliefs and ask your self what is true.”

Foege, in his interview with USA TODAY, stated he’d prefer to see the CDC reclaim its management position from the White Home.

“Dr. Redfield might nonetheless be a savior in all of this,” he stated.

Learn or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/information/investigations/2020/10/06/expert-cdcs-redfield-should-expose-trump-covid-failures-leave-post/5899724002/

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