(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to conduct a review after facing a wave of criticism for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In an agency-wide message to her leadership team and staff on Monday, CDC director Rochelle Walensky shared her plans to review the agency’s structure, saying that “never in its 75 years history has CDC had to make decisions so quickly, based on often limited, real-time, and evolving science.” She said that an external senior federal health official was hired for an evaluation of CDC’s structure, systems and processes, according to an earlier report published by the Washington Post.
The agency has come under strain and scrutiny as it was forced to quickly take action during the pandemic based on data developed at top speed. “Work is needed to institutionalize and formalize these approaches and to find new ways to adapt the agency’s structure to the changing environment,” a CDC spokesperson said in an emailed statement confirming the review.
The agency has repeatedly been criticized for Covid guidelines involving health workers, such as earlier this year when it shortened recommended periods for isolation and quarantine. After that, it came under fire for not backing routine testing for exposed people before resuming normal activities.
Shortening those periods was intended to get exposed people back to work faster and help reduce staffing shortages. Still, some labor groups and public-health experts said the guidance prioritized the needs of businesses, supply chains and schools over those of vulnerable workers.
Last month, Representative Ro Khanna of California sent a letter to Walensky warning that confusing Covid-19 prevention guidelines should be strengthened for hospitals and clinics. The newest guidance also puts frontline workers at risk, he said.
The CDC review also follows the agency’s plans to take back its role as the main agency collecting hospital data on infectious disease threats. It was stripped of the role mid-pandemic because of its slow response.
Under a new proposal, hospitals participating in the U.S.’s Medicare and Medicaid programs would be required to funnel hospital data to the CDC’s infection-tracking service.
“As we’ve challenged our state and local partners, we know that now is the time for CDC to integrate the lessons learned into a strategy for the future,” Walensky said, in a section of the letter seen by Bloomberg News.
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