Walensky Blasted for Poor Messaging

Rochelle Walensky, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. The committee will hear testimony about the Biden administration's ongoing plans to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and Delta variant. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
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CDC director Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate hearing on July 20, 2021. Image: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

CDC director Rochelle Walensky has been pilloried by critics who say she’s out of touch with the public’s needs during the pandemic and is responsible for confusing guidance and policy reversals.  

  • “The administration in general has lost the confidence of people who would be their natural supporters,” infectious disease expert Celine Gounder told Axios.

Policy or messages? While some blame Walensky’s communications style, others say it’s poor policy decisions. “The CDC problems started right at the start” of the pandemic, said the University of Pennsylvania’s Zeke Emanuel.
Tough spot: “You know, this is hard. We have ever evolving science with an ever evolving variant,” Walensky said yesterday on Fox News, as reported by The Hill. She said she’s committed to explaining the changing science—and continuing to improve her communications.
At her first solo news conference on Friday, the infectious disease physician offered no apologies, The Washington Post reports.
Doc take: Walensky, praised by many as smart and articulate, framed the CDC recommendations as a physician uses a decision tree (“If ‘a,’ then 'b'; if ‘b,’ then ‘c,’”), said Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Jay A. Winsten.
The CDC’s Dec. 27 confusing isolation and quarantines guidelines drew sharp criticism from the American Medical Association and spawned countless “cdc says” memes, including “The CDC now says you can text your ex when you’re drunk.”
The Quote: “Brilliant clinicians, brilliant researchers are not necessarily brilliant communicators,” Winsten said.

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