Health

Political Pressure on the CDC Sidelines Public Health

Image: Poynter

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the US is worsening day by day. However, President Donald Trump is still insistent on reopening all states completely as soon as possible. Till now, all leading health officials including Dr. Anothy Fauci, and other members of the White House Task Force advise against reopening. The recommendation is unlikely to make any difference to the plans. Not only will all states soon remove all the remaining restrictions but may even open educational institutes.

The lockdown in the country ended last month in June in many of the states. As local governments eased restrictions on businesses and traveling, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines side by side. The health agency uploaded different instructions for safety during all aspects of life.

This includes protection from coronavirus during traveling, at the workplace, while going on vacation, at a gathering or even, in schools and colleges as well as other businesses. In addition, there are also guidelines for people who are vulnerable to contracting the virus.

For instance, older adults, people with underlying health conditions like diabetes, and others can follow extra precautionary steps. CDC also warns of other risks with the coronavirus infection that may impact very young children or pregnant women.

Also Read: Fauci Recommends a Second Lockdown in States with Increasing COVID-19 Cases 

Overall, the CDC still recommends staying at home and avoiding public spaces as the best way to avoid coronavirus. In accordance with the present medical research, social distancing and isolation are indeed the most effective methods, especially during a pandemic.

However, the advice from the health agency seems to conflict with President Trump’s plans for the US. Recently, the president has harshly criticized institutes that may have displayed a different stance or approach towards the pandemic.

For instance, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released new rulings regarding M1 and F1 visas. The change is likely to affect over a million foreign students currently studying in the country.

As per the new rulings, foreign students are required to leave the country if universities do not open in autumn. Failure to do so can also result in deportation from the US. The decision was criticized by leading universities in the US including MIT and Harvard, who is also filing a lawsuit against ICE over the ruling.

According to President Trump, the lawsuit is unreasonable and selfish as well as destroys an easy solution to decrease people and hence the number of infections in the country. Now, the president has also criticized the CDC’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in the US, saying that the agency’s guidelines undermine his administration.

Paul Alexander, who is a senior adviser of the Health and Human Services Department, also said the CDC undermines Trump simply by reporting risks of coronavirus in pregnant women in an exaggerated manner.

Alexander states that the report by CDC  “reads in a way to frighten women . . . as if the President and his administration can’t fix this and it is getting worse.”

Last Thursday, the US made a record high of more than fifty-seven thousand cases in a single day. The situation is bad and is bound to get even worse with increasing political pressure on the CDC. Even though the CDC is the leading health agency in the country, pressure from the Trump administration has made it change its decision multiple times.

The rife between CDC and President Trump deepened when the president criticized the agency’s safety guidelines for reopening schools once again. He specifically said that the instructions are “very impractical” and “tough and expensive”. The Vice President of the US, Mike Pence also said that the CDC will release new guidelines soon after its meeting with Trump.

Such conflicts sideline public health in the country significantly. Isolation of CDC, which has previously played a pivotal role in ending HIV/Aids and Malaria epidemics, can worsen coronavirus pandemic in the US even more.

 

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Abeera I. Kazmi

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