The former acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that the agency is losing the public’s trust by walking back its COVID-19 guidance.
“The problem is, there have been so many instances where there’s been political fingerprints on CDC documents, and CDC hasn’t been able to be out front to explain what’s going on. It leads to an undermining of trust and when you lose trust, you lose lives,” Dr. Richard Besser, who is now the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview on “Good Morning America.”
The CDC recently issued and later removed updated guidance on its official website to address growing evidence of limited airborne transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. The agency said Monday that posting the new information was done in error.
“The CDC should be out there every day explaining what they’re learning, explaining why guidance is changing,” Besser said. “I talked to a leader at CDC and I expect very soon there will be guidance out that talks about other routes of transmission, like aerosols, and what can be done to reduce the risk of transmission as well.”
As the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 edges closer to 200,000, Besser described the pandemic as the worst public health crisis in his lifetime and discussed the danger of downplaying the situation.
“When you think about this loss of trust and loss of lives, you know, every community is affected but not equally. Black Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, low-income Americans are being hit the hardest,” he said. “So when people downplay the significance of this, there are certain groups that are really paying the price.”
Besser warned that coronavirus-related restrictions may need to be rolled out again this winter as people spend more time indoors, increasing the risk of catching respiratory viruses.
“Viruses do better in the winter,” he said. “That’s something people should anticipate.”