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CDC’s new leader follows the science. Is this enough?


“I’m going to stop here, I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on a recurring feeling of impending doom,” she said, her eyes gleaming with tears. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential and so much reason for hope for where we are. But right now I’m scared.”

Her passionate speech shocked many, perhaps none more than her husband. “She’s not a nuisance — if anything, I choke on her much more easily,” he said. He said his openness indicated his “real anguish” about the pandemic situation. “He felt deeply that half a million is the weight of the dead.”

On the day of her urgent petition, she appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Meadow Show”, where she said that people who were vaccinated “don’t carry virus“- an overly optimistic statement that the CDC had to walk back. Later that week, new guidance from the agency said people vaccinated could safe journey, but Dr. Valensky said the agency didn’t really want them to travel, a stance that surprised some Americans.

The scientists said the most recent example, when Dr. Valensky announced that vaccinated people could go indoors without a mask, was supported by the latest research. But many felt that the agency had decided to end the use of masks without considering the parts of the country where infections were still high, and that new advice would emerge without understanding the conflicts of mistrust and culture.

“CDC got the medical and epidemiological sciences right, but what they didn’t get was behavioral science, communication and working closely with other stakeholders,” Dr. Gunder said. “It was a big mistake.”

The data since the announcement seems to have proved Dr. Valensky right: Infections are still declining, even as much of the country reopens at a vigorous pace. And as promised, the agency has set about releasing more practical masking guidance regarding settings like summer camp (mostly no) and public transportation (yes).

Dr. Valensky and the CDC declined to comment on how the mask recommendations were handled. But Dr. Fauci said he believed some small missteps were inevitable, and Dr. Valensky was a quick study.



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