CDC's messaging problem highlights pandemic's uncertain future

C C Offline

INTRO: At a particularly crucial juncture in the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a messaging problem. The CDC and its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, have been the subjects of growing criticism over statements and guidance that have been revised or walked back.

The U.S. faces something of a conundrum. Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, and state and local governments are relaxing restrictions. Meanwhile, as case numbers rise in parts of the country, public health experts worry about the possibility of a fourth surge.

There are no easy answers. "One of the most important things we say in public health is that you have to have a very simple message," said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University. "But we're in a situation where the message is very complex."

The problems started last week with what were perceived as mixed messages about the state of the pandemic and what's safe for people who have been fully vaccinated.

Walensky warned March 29 of "impending doom" because of recent increases in case numbers across the country. In an interview with MSNBC the same day, she raised eyebrows by suggesting that "vaccinated people do not carry the virus." Many researchers criticized the comments, saying it's too soon to know for certain what effect the vaccines may have on transmission. The CDC walked back her statement a few days later.

The agency then relaxed its travel guidance for people who are fully vaccinated, but in light of the steady rise in case numbers and the fact that majority of the U.S. population is still unvaccinated, Walensky said, "I would advocate against general travel overall."

The recent back-and-forth caused confusion and frustration, and it muddied public health messaging at what some experts say is a precarious moment. The CDC is being criticized at a shaky time as it tries to rebuild trust that has eroded over the past year, largely because of political interference from the Trump administration... (MORE)
Syne Offline
The problem started long before last week.

My state, which only had the initial 15 days to lower the curve, only had one surge, without another in sight. It's states that had heavy lockdowns that are facing third or fourth surges. The CDC guidance has contributed to those, through fearmongering.

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