The COVID-19 Pandemic: Colorado’s epidemic curve declines, the CDC, and moreJun 14, 2021
Last week, the New York Times profiled the current CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, in an article entitled “The C.D.C.’s New Leader Follows the Science. Is That Enough?” The article emphasizes the need to restore trust in the CDC. In my opinion, the CDC needs to re-establish credibility with research and academic communities, state and local public health agencies, and the public. The agency’s performance around the pandemic was mixed and the CDC’s reputation was tarnished by some of its key clients—the executive branch and some in Congress. Dr. Walensky has a tough job ahead and, per the article, potential critics waiting to pounce.
The president appoints the CDC director, who heads a vast administrative structure that includes the centers and other entities. The leadership positions are filled with a mix of career public health professionals, some beginning their careers in the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), and recruits from outside the CDC. For example, my Johns Hopkins colleague, Pat Breysse, heads the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). As with other federal agencies, career professionals maintain the core functions. Political appointees come and go.
Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, has announced her resignation from the CDC. Anne exemplifies the CDC staff's dedication to public health. Read her New York Times editorial, “What I learned in 33 years at the C.D.C.” Here are some of her pithy messages:
- “Public service is difficult. The past year and a half left many among our ranks exhausted, threatened, saddened and sometimes sidelined.”
- “The nation’s public health system needs major upgrades.”
- “Public health successes usually take place out of the spotlight and under the radar, which for most of us in this field is just fine; victory often means preventing something bad from happening.”
- “Public service is deeply meaningful.”
- “…I hope this is also a moment when a new generation is called to action, to experience the difficulty and meaning and joy of public service. Our world needs you.”
I forecasted that Colorado’s epidemic curve would eventually decline as vaccination continues. Last week’s numbers signal that Colorado’s epidemic may finally do so. Yesterday’s count of Coloradans hospitalized with COVID-19 was 334, a drop of 120 since June 1. For context, last summer’s low was around 130—a level that might be reached in another month. And, turning to another forecast, warm weather is here.
Jonathan Samet, MD, MS
Dean, Colorado School of Public Health