Dr. Rochelle B. Walinsky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Friday announced the agency’s new guidance shortening the isolation period for people with coronavirus to five days from 10, saying it was “grounded in science.”
Speaking during a sometimes controversial telephone briefing with reporters, Dr. Walinsky also responded to criticism that messages from the agency were garbled and vague, saying she had appeared at 80 White House briefings since taking office, sometimes answering multiple questions. times a week.
Friday’s news conference, which took place as the Omicron release continued to cause a spike in coronavirus cases, was both rare and remarkable, as it was the agency’s first independent briefing from the White House since former President Donald J. Trump put an end to it in February 2020.
“I heard you’re interested in hearing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention independently,” Dr. Walinsky said, adding that she expected the briefing to be the first of many. A number of reporters, seeking information about the agency’s complex decisions, thanked her over and over again.
Dr. Walensky, a highly regarded infectious disease expert with no government experience, faced many challenges. The agency’s reputation and morale have been damaged by the White House, which has often tried to interfere in its science decisions.
Now the nation is heading into the third year of a pandemic with a virus that has been constantly throwing up, which is stressful for health care workers and government professionals on the front lines of the response, Dr. Walinsky said.
“I think we are all proud of serving the largest and most significant public health crisis of our lives,” said one of those officials, Dr. Henry Walk, director of the CDC’s Division of Emerging Infection and Preparedness, who joined Dr. Connection. “So yeah, it’s stressful. It’s a challenge, but it’s good. Awesome. I mean, this is the time to count on it.”
Dr. Walke’s presence on the call was also unusual; CDC scientists have not participated in the press calls since Trump ended them. Trump’s anger has only increased, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, then director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned during a news briefing that the coronavirus would severely disrupt Americans’ lives. Dr. Messonnier left the CDC last year.
Dr Walensky has faced heavy criticism in recent days for a series of false messages, the latest of which includes the new isolation guidance, released last week. Public health experts have criticized its failure to recommend that people with the virus be tested negative before the short five-day isolation period ends.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president for the pandemic, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, general surgeon, have publicly disagreed with the CDC’s failure to include a test recommendation, further confusing the issue. This week, the CDC made it clear that if people had access to tests, they could get them.
CNN reported Friday that Dr. Walinsky sought a media internship this fall. A spokesperson for the agency noted that this was “not out of the ordinary” for agency managers. Dr. Walensky herself said she was “committed to continuing to improve as we learn more about the science and to communicate that with all of you” and the public.
At Friday’s press conference, Dr. Walensky faced a barrage of sometimes confrontational questions, including confusion about the guidance and its scientific rationale. She said she was based on a scientific review of dozens of papers analyzing coronavirus infections, although she acknowledged that many of them depend on variables other than Omicron.
She said it will be weeks before scientists have detailed lab data for Omicron — including data on whether people infected with the transmissible variant can get it again.
“We have indications that if you have delta you are susceptible to omicron,” she said, referring to delta’s earlier type of virus. But, she said, there is still no data to suggest that “Omicron protects against Omicron.”