More than 1,000 current and former officers of "an elite disease fighting program" at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have signed an open letter denouncing President Donald Trump and the federal government's disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic and demanding that the prestigious public health agency be allowed to resume its crucial role in protecting the health of the nation's people.
"The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous," wrote 1,044 physicians, nurses, scientists, and other health professionals who once were or now are Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers at the CDC.
Hundreds of retired and active EIS officers, sometimes called "disease detectives," have signed the letter to publicly share their "concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation's health protection agency during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic."
"It doesn't take 1,000 EIS officers to see that the Trump administration has made a catastrophic mess of its pandemic response," said Carl Bergstrom, a biology professor at the University of Washington, on social media. But when they do, he added, "the people in charge damn well better pay attention."
It doesn't take 1000 EIS officers to see that the Trump Administration has made a catastrophic mess of its pandemic response, but when 1000 EIS officers sign a letter stating this, the people in charge damn well better pay attention. h/t @michaelmina_lab https://t.co/Ira4sl7P3x
— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) October 17, 2020
"Bravo!" tweeted Dr. Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at the Department of Health and Human Services, in response to the letter.
As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, Bright publicly announced his resignation from the National Institute of Health on October 7 in a scathing statement condemning Trump's deadly ineptitude.
"It's time to speak up," Bright said this weekend on social media. "Silence is complicity."
— Rick Bright (@RickABright) October 17, 2020
Dr. William Foege, a world-renowned epidemiologist and former director of the CDC, has also been an outspoken advocate of whistleblowing to shed light on the Trump administration's refusal to respond adequately to the pandemic.
In late September, Foege sent a letter (pdf) to current CDC director Robert Redfield, urging him to risk his job by speaking publicly about the White House's epic failure to mitigate the coronavirus crisis, as Common Dreams reported.
While Redfield has not taken up Foege's call, the letter signed by over 1,000 former or current CDC "disease detectives" does begin to expose how Trump has undermined the once highly regarded public health agency, jeopardizing thousands of lives in the process.
The letter explains:
In previous public health crises, CDC provided the best available information and straightforward recommendations directly to the public. It was widely respected for effectively synthesizing and applying scientific evidence from epidemiologists and biomedical researchers at CDC and worldwide. Its historic credibility was based on incomparable expertise and 70+ years of institutional memory. That focus and organization is hardly recognizable today.
The U.S. epidemic is sustained by deadly chains of transmission that crisscross the entire country. Yet states and territories have been left to invent their own differing systems for defining, diagnosing and reporting cases of this highly contagious disease. Inconsistent contact tracing efforts are confined within each state’s borders—while coronavirus infections sadly are not. Such chaos is what CDC customarily avoided by its long history of collaboration with state and local health authorities in developing national systems for disease surveillance and coordinated control.
When the letter was originally drafted in May, the country's Covid-19 death toll had already surpassed 100,000. "The devastation continues," the signatories wrote, "with an end not yet in sight."
Now, nearly 220,000 lives have been lost to the pandemic in the U.S. alone.
"CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency," said the retired and active EIS officers. "We urgently call upon the American people to demand and our nation's leaders to allow CDC to resume its indispensable role."