Undermining CDC

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Science  23 Oct 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6515, pp. 394-399
DOI: 10.1126/science.370.6515.394

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When Deborah Birx, a physician with a background in HIV/AIDS research, was named coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in February, she was widely praised as a tough, indefatigable manager and a voice of data-driven reason. But a Science investigation found that some of her actions have undermined the effectiveness of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Interviews with nine current CDC employees, including senior agency leaders, and 20 former agency leaders and public health experts—and a review of more than 100 official emails, memos, and other documents—suggest Birx's privatization of CDC's system for gathering COVID-19 hospital data fits a pattern in which she sometimes promoted President Donald Trump's policies or views against scientific consensus. In the process, she helped create an existential crisis at the world's preeminent public health agency.

  • This story was supported by the Science Fund for Investigative Journalism.

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