In a rare move for a medical journal, The Lancet waded into politics Friday, urging the election of a new president “who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”
The editorial, attributed to no author but “The Lancet,” is simply titled “Reviving the US CDC” and focuses on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC, according to the piece, “has seen its role minimised and become an ineffective and nominal adviser in the response to contain the spread of the virus” and has a “strained relationship” with the federal government.
The journal outlines how the Trump administration, in its estimation, hollowed out the agency “that was the first point of contact for many national health authorities facing a public health threat”:
The Trump administration further chipped away at the CDC’s capacity to combat infectious diseases. CDC staff in China were cut back with the last remaining CDC officer recalled home from the China CDC in July, 2019, leaving an intelligence vacuum when COVID-19 began to emerge. In a press conference on Feb 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned US citizens to prepare for major disruptions to movement and everyday life. Messonnier subsequently no longer appeared at White House briefings on COVID-19. More recently, the Trump administration has questioned guidelines that the CDC has provided. These actions have undermined the CDC’s leadership and its work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lancet editorial acknowledges the CDC has made mistakes in its handling of the coronavirus crisis, which has now killed over 86,000 Americans. Still, it argues, “punishing the agency by marginalising and hobbling it is not the solution.”
The piece accuses Trump’s administration of being obsessed with “magic bullets” instead of “a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles” and declares that the CDC needs strong leadership and thus, America needs different leadership.