March 16 (UPI) — A federal health agency review of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidance has found issues with controversial recommendations by the former Trump administration, stating some were authored primarily by outside sources and were not based on the best science available.
The review, which was posted on the CDC’s website on Monday, was ordered by Rochelle Walensky as part of her effort as its new director under the Biden administration to regain the public’s trust in the department as it came under criticism during the Trump administration for allegedly straying from science to appease political ends.
In the memo to Walensky, Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director at the CDC, said the review was conducted “to ensure that all of CDC’s existing guidance related to COVID-19 is evidence-based and free of politics.”
Shuchat said the review found issues as some guidance was not primarily authored by CDC staff, there was a reliance on language that was weaker than should have been based on existing evidence and recommendations were not being updated as new data or scientific information became available.
In particular, Schuchat highlighted three controversial reports issued by the Trump White House, which were already removed or replaced from its website.
One of the guidelines was on reopening schools issued in July that lessened the risk of children contacting the virus, one was issued in August that said people who came in close contact with a confirmed case did not necessarily need to get tested and another was issued in April on the reopening of the United States’ economy amid a surge in cases.
Schuchat said some guidelines lacked transparency as “there was not a consistent practice of publicizing the supporting evidence” in scientific briefs and that it was also difficult to discern “whether a new document represented a major or very minor update” and that it was difficult to “decipher the core recommendations in long documents.”
Walensky said in a statement Monday to The Washington Post, which was the first to report on the review, that she is interested in moving the CDC forward “with science, transparency and clarity leading the way.”
“It is imperative for the American people to trust CDC,” she said. “If they don’t, preventable illness and injury can occur — and, tragically, lives can and will be lost.”
“This agency and its critical health information cannot be vulnerable to undue influence, and this report helps outline our path to rebuilding confidence and ensuring the information that CDC shares with the American people is based on sound science that will keep us, our loved ones and our communities healthy and safe,” she said.
Schuchat in the document recommend the use of scientific briefs in support of new guidance, which should also be accompanied by an abstract or executive summary, and the inclusion of a summary of what has been changed with updates to guidance as well as ensuring that guidance is easily accessible and understood, among other suggestions.