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Are You Losing Confidence in the CDC’s Integrity?

The CDC used to be the most respected public health agency in the world. But missteps have now led some to question the CDC's integrity.

I grew up on a dairy farm as a young child. Cows did what cows do. We called their “presents” cow flops. You had to be careful where you stepped so you didn’t muck up your shoes with cow poop. On Monday we wrote how the CDC Flips, Flops, and Flips on Aerosol Spread. With the CDC’s integrity now in question, the emphasis seems to be on its “flops” as much as its flips.

A Brief Refresher:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got a lot of attention this week by abruptly pulling down information it had posted to its website last Friday. The statement that is now missing acknowledged the role of aerosols in the spread of COVID-19. The public health authorities there put up a guidance a week ago that said the coronavirus can move:

“through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection.”

You can read more of the CDC’s last Friday statement at this link. The key message was that airborne viral particles can “remain suspended in air” and “travel distances beyond 6 feet.” On Monday morning those words were deleted.

If you go to the CDC’s website now, you will discover no mention of aerosol viral particles suspended in air and spreading beyond 6 feet. 

Is the CDC’s Integrity in Question?

When the CDC pulled its Friday guidance, it explained that it doesn’t reflect the current state of knowledge and suggested that it was a draft that was posted by accident. Really? Here is what Dr. Scott Gottlieb had to say about that:

“This is deeply concerning”

“It’s really hard to believe that this was an accidental posting of draft guidance that they had to subsequently pull down 48 hours later that they didn’t realize they had put it up over the course of the weekend.”

“I think that’s the most corrosive event of the last several weeks—seeing information get put up on the CDC website that doesn’t necessarily represent the work of the CDC scientists or doesn’t represent the consensus of that agency.” 

Who is Scott Gottlieb, MD?

Dr. Gottlieb is no radical leftie! He was appointed head of the Food and Drug Administration by President Trump in 2017. He left the agency in 2019 and is on the board of Pfizer. More relevant, though, is his long-standing association with the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). If Scott Gottlieb worries about the CDC’s integrity, we’d all better pay attention.

Other Experts Are Also Concerned About CDC’s Integrity:

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post (Sept. 22, 2020), two experts on aerosols made it clear that the coronavirus can and does spread through aerosols. One of those experts, Dr. Linsey Marr, was a guest on The People’s Pharmacy syndicated radio show last week. She is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the aerosol spread of viruses. You can listen to her describe how COVID-19 is transmitted at this link. Just click on the arrow inside the green circle under Dr. Marr’s photo:

Show 1227: What Do You Need to Know About Airborne Virus?
Ventilation is crucially important when it comes to preventing the spread of airborne virus. Learn how to protect yourself.

Dr. Marr and her colleague, Dr. Joseph Allen of Harvard, introduce their opinion piece in the Washington Post this way:

“There’s something odd going on at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“For a moment, it seemed that the agency had finally woken up to an important fact: The novel coronavirus is airborne. On Friday, the CDC updated its website with guidance on ‘how covid-19 spreads.’ For the first time, they mentioned aerosols — the tiny particles that can stay airborne for hours and travel beyond six feet.

“But on Monday, the CDC removed this information from its website, bizarrely explaining that it ‘does not reflect our current state of knowledge.’”

Drs. Marr and Allen go on to describe how thousands of viral particles can stay aloft for minutes to hours and can travel well beyond six feet. These two respected scientists don’t come right out and question the CDC’s integrity. But they do encourage the CDC to:

“update its guidelines to reflect our actual current state of knowledge.”

Why the CDC’s Integrity Is Important:

Why is all this important? Because when we recognize the importance of aerosol transmission, we can protect ourselves by improving ventilation, changing air filters regularly, avoiding crowded indoor spaces and above all, by wearing our masks. If our most important public health organization cannot get this information right, people will lose confidence in other recommendations.

Dr. Gottlieb suggests that this giant CDC flop and previous reversals may have been politically motivated. That is deeply concerning because they undermine the trust that the agency needs to promote the public health.

What Readers Are Saying:

Deborah offers this comment about the flip-flops:

“None of us knows what to believe. The guidance changes every day, and it is frightening not to know what is true and what is not. When are we going to get to the truth about this horrible virus, and with all the confusing information, how will we know the real facts? Until then I will continue to wear my mask, wash my hands and keep my distance, and stay home.”

Doris seems to be questioning the CDC’s integrity:

“There certainly seems to be something going on behind the scenes at CDC that is not in the best interest of U.S. citizens.”

D’Lain offers this perspective:

“As far as I know, the public has already been informed about aerosols and droplets. That is why we have been wearing a mask for 6 months. This is not new news. Maybe for the CDC (which has really screwed up a lot), it may be new news.”

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts about the CDC’s integrity in the comment section below. Please, no political rants.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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