In a very rare commentary on political matters, the editors of the esteemed medical journal The Lancet called for a new president in 2021 who can competently deal with a major health crisis by letting health care professionals do their jobs.
The editors called out President Donald Trump and some of his top aides for undercutting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at a time when the U.S. and the world at large are being ravaged by the coronavirus.
"The COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen in the USA with 1.3 million cases and an estimated death toll of 80,684 as of May 12. States that were initially the hardest hit, such as New York and New Jersey, have decelerated the rate of infections and deaths after the implementation of 2 months of lockdown. However, the emergence of new outbreaks in Minnesota, where the stay-at-home order is set to lift in mid-May, and Iowa, which did not enact any restrictions on movement or commerce, has prompted pointed new questions about the inconsistent and incoherent national response to the COVID-19 crisis," the editorial began, before adding, "The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flagship agency for the nation's public health, has seen its role minimized and become an ineffective and nominal adviser in the response to contain the spread of the virus."
The piece was highly critical of Dr. Deborah Birx for her comment, "There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust.”
"This is an unhelpful statement, but also a shocking indictment of an agency that was once regarded as the gold standard for global disease detection and control," the editorial stated. "How did an agency that was the first point of contact for many national health authorities facing a public health threat become so ill-prepared to protect the public's health?"
"The Trump administration further chipped away at the CDC's capacity to combat infectious diseases. CDC staff in China were cut back with the last remaining CDC officer recalled home from the China CDC in July, 2019, leaving an intelligence vacuum when COVID-19 began to emerge," the piece continued." In a press conference on Feb 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned US citizens to prepare for major disruptions to movement and everyday life. Messonnier subsequently no longer appeared at White House briefings on COVID-19. More recently, the Trump administration has questioned guidelines that the CDC has provided. These actions have undermined the CDC's leadership and its work during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Noting the long and distinguished history of the CDC -- while also admitting mistakes have been made by the CDC in its handing of the coronavirus pandemic -- the editorial continued, "But punishing the agency by marginalizing and hobbling it is not the solution. The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets—vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear."
The editorial concluded, "The Trump administration's further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics."
You can read the whole editorial here.