Former White House COVID response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should prioritize transparency in reforming the agency after the pandemic.
Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Dr. Birx said that the CDC should focus on sharing its data with the American people in a way they can understand and work with the private sector to better collect information.
Birx first criticized the CDC for “trying to create a parallel data system” apart from hospitals.
“[I]n March of 2020, all of our data that I used to warn Americans of who was at risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death came from our European colleagues,” she said. “That in itself should be an indictment of our system.”
“Secondly, reporting was coming in extraordinarily slow from hospitals through a system that CDC had created. And I know this created controversy, but for three months, I asked the CDC to fix its system and develop a partnership with clinics and hospitals, and laboratories, and they wouldn’t. And so that’s why I asked all the hospitals to start reporting, and they did. And so I think sometimes we hold ourselves back.”
Birx added that the private sector “is willing to help” the federal government, and more collaboration is necessary.
She went on to express her frustration over the CDC’s failure to adequately relay the information that led to its recommendations to the American people.
“I’ve asked them over and over again, if you’re going to issue guidance like the five days and return to work in a mask, show the data transparently that you utilized to come to that decision, because I think when Americans saw that it was a very small number, that they would have really reconsidered those guidelines,” said Birx. “Americans are smart, they can process the information. Give them all of the data.”
“The way you rebuild public trust is be transparent,” she added. “Better data, better accountability, better transparency. But they also have to believe, and this gets to the culture piece, people can understand complicated issues. It’s your job as a public health official. That’s what public in public health means. Your job is to take complex situations and data and create graphs so that people can understand why you are making those recommendations.”