The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said that the public can trust his agency despite recent missteps amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re committed to data and science and to give the American public the best public health recommendations we can based on that data and science, and be open, if necessary, if the data and science changes, to modify that guidance based on that new data,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said during a Congressional hearing.
The agency announced Monday that it made a mistake in recently posting draft guidance that said airborne coronavirus particles could travel over 6 feet and that the inhalation of such particles could be the main way the virus spreads.
“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,” the agency’s website says.
Before that, the CDC received pushback from public health figures when it updated its testing guidelines in August to say that those who come into close contact with a known case of the virus but do not show symptoms “do not necessarily need a test” unless they are vulnerable or their doctor or a state or local public health official recommended one. That recommendation was clarified this month when the guidelines were updated to say that “due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons.”
Comments from Redfield to Congress last week also sparked controversy with President Donald Trump. The CDC director said that a vaccine likely won’t be widely available to the public until “the second or third quarter” of next year.
Trump later disputed the comments, saying Redfield might have misunderstood the question.
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According to Trump, “under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said.”
Redfield attempted to clarify his remarks on Wednesday, saying there will be enough doses for the public by late March or April, but that his comments were alluding to the time it takes to complete the vaccine process.
“I think that’s going to take us April, May, June, possibly July to get the entire American public completely vaccinated,” Redfield said.
Redfield on Wednesday avoided a question about whether he faced political pushback from his comments, adding that he will continue to report the science and data and “it’s not going to be modulated by whether individuals really appreciate what I say or don’t appreciate what I say.”
The agency will soon be able to share results from a large study aimed at estimating how many Americans have had the virus, according to Redfield. He said that more than 90% of the population remains susceptible to the virus, which is similar to an estimate he made in June.
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