CDC director Robert Redfield (right) conceded that the coronavirus pandemic had "overwhelmed" the United States.(AP: Carolyn Kaster)ShareFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsAppPrint contentPrint with images and other mediaPrint text onlyPrintCancelLed by physicians, scientists and epidemiologists, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the most reliable sources of knowledge during disease outbreaks. But now, with the world in desperate need of authoritative information, one of the foremost agencies for fighting infectious disease has gone conspicuously silent.For the first time since 1946, when the CDC came to life in a cramped Atlanta office to fight malaria, the agency is not at the front line of a public health emergency.On April 22, CDC director Robert Redfield stood at the White House briefing room lectern and conceded that the coronavirus pandemic had "overwhelmed" the United States.Following Redfield at the podium, President Donald Trump said the CDC director had been "totally misquoted" in his warning that COVID-19 would continue to pose serious difficulties as the US moved into its winter flu season in late 2020.LoadingInvited to clarify, Redfield confirmed he had been quoted correctly in giving his opinion that there were potentially "difficult and complicated" times ahead.Trump tried a different tack. "You may not even have corona coming back," the President said, once again contradicting the career virologist. "Just so you understand."The exchange was interpreted by some pundits as confirmation that the CDC's venerated expertise had been sidelined as the coronavirus continued to ravage the US.In the latest development, the New York Times reported this week the CDC has even been bypassed in its data collection, with the Trump administration ordering hospitals to send COVID-19 data directly to the White House.Diminished roleWhen facing previous public health emergencies the CDC was a hive of activity, holding regular press briefings and developing guidance that was followed by governments around the world. But during the greatest public health emergency in a century, it appears the CDC has been almost entirely erased by the White House as the public face of the COVID-19 pandemic response.LoadingThis diminished role is obvious to former leaders of the CDC, who say their scientific advice has never before been politicised to this extent.As the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding, several CDC officials issued warnings, only to promptly disappear from public view. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, predicted on February 25 that the virus was not contained and would grow into a pandemic.The stock market plunged and Messonnier was removed from future White House press briefings. Between March 9 and June 12 there was no CDC presence at White House press briefings on COVID-19.The CDC has erred during the pandemic, most significantly in its initial efforts to develop a test for COVID-19. Many public health specialists are nevertheless baffled by the CDC's low profile as the pandemic continues to sweep the globe.(AP: Chris Pizzello)The testing kits proved to be faulty,
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