“At the conclusion of this collective effort, we will develop new systems and processes to deliver our science and program to the American people, along with a plan for how CDC should be structured to facilitate the public health work we do,” Walensky wrote in an email sent to agency staff on Monday.
Jim Macrae, the associate administrator for primary health care at the Health Resources and Services Administration, will be overseeing a one-month review of the agency, which has been under mounting public scrutiny over how it has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting on April 11, Macrae will begin evaluating the agency’s COVID-19 politics and will provide her with “insight on how the delivery of our science and program can be further strengthened during this critical time of transition,” Walensky also said.
In a statement to news outlets, the CDC said Monday that it has “worked to speed up data reporting and scientific processes throughout its pandemic response” in the past year, while it added that efforts are “needed to institutionalize and formalize these approaches and to find new ways to adapt the agency’s structure to the changing environment.”
Since she took over the agency in January 2021, Walensky has faced criticism for her public comments and messaging around the pandemic as critics have accused the agency of making politically motivated decisions on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. During an interview with the Wall Street Journal in mid-2021, the CDC chief admitted that she is struggling with communicating with the public about the pandemic.
Walensky said in a separate statement to CNN on Monday that “never in its 75 years history has CDC had to make decisions so quickly, based on often limited, real-time, and evolving science.”
The CDC, she added, “is working to strategically position and modernize the agency to facilitate and support the future of public health. As we’ve challenged our state and local partners, we know that now is the time for CDC to integrate the lessons learned into a strategy for the future.”
“This work will allow CDC to develop new systems and processes to deliver science and program activities to the American people, with a keen focus on the agency’s core capabilities–public health workforce, data modernization, laboratory capacity, health equity, rapid response to disease outbreaks, and preparedness within the U.S. and around the world,” her statement continued.