We still don’t know why the CDC decided to develop its own test for SARS-CoV-2. If the dysfunction persists, it’s a danger to other decisions being made about the epidemic. But, like the number of Covid-19 cases in the United States, we just don’t know.
The director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, was involved in the decision, but we don’t know how. It could be anything from a definitive order to passing it off to someone else, which is a decision too.
Redfield’s background is in the military and a university, as a clinician and researcher. Before he came to CDC, he had no experience in directing a public health agency. His research is in the area of HIV/AIDS. While in the military, in the 1980s, he called for mandatory HIV testing of recruits and segregating HIV-positive personnel, a move opposed by medical authorities at that time.
Also in the 1980s,
Redfield worked closely with W. Shepherd Smith, Jr. and his Christian organization, Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy, or ASAP. The group maintained that AIDS was “God’s judgment” against homosexuals, spread in an America weakened by single-parent households and loss of family values.
With ASAP, Redfield backed a House bill that would have effectively quarantined people with HIV. The bill died in Congress. Redfield also backed a developmental AIDS vaccine, lobbying Congress to fund a $20 million clinical trial. The vaccine and Redfield’s lobbying failed. ASAP is now known as the Children’s AIDS Fund, and Redfield was on its board in 2018 when he was named CDC director.
In last Friday’s press conference at the CDC, Redfield offered his adulation to Trump. Not a good look for someone who is supposed to be a scientific advisor.
Before Redfield was made director, the CDC was in turmoil from a poor decision on its director and continuing budget cuts. Thomas Frieden, appointed by Barack Obama, resigned in 2017. Six months later, Donald Trump appointed Brenda Fitzgerald, state health commissioner in Georgia. Fitzgerald’s directorship dissolved in revelations of a grant to a company that she and her husband held stock in and other conflicts of interest.
Those disruptions may have made CDC more susceptible to poor decision-making.
Cross-posted to Balloon Juice