Rochelle Walensky, the incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “better, healthier days are ahead” but testing and vaccinating for COVID-19 must accelerate rapidly to get there.
Dr. Walensky said she ordered Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat to review existing guidelines so they meet the moment.
“Wherever needed, this guidance will be updated so that people can make decisions and take action based upon the best available evidence,” Dr. Walensky, a physician from Massachusetts, said. “I am so proud to join CDC. Our 24/7 mission is truly more critical than ever.”
She takes the reins at a critical juncture in the fight against the pandemic. Vaccines are available but states say they’re running out of doses as they try to expand availability, while fast-spreading variants have global officials skittish about their ability to control the pathogen.
Dr. Walensky also will be tasked with restoring the CDC’s role as the world’s premier disease-fighting agency. Critics complained the agency was sidelined or pressured to alter weekly scientific reports by political actors within the Trump administration.
President Trump often addressed the pandemic on his own from the White House, while his CDC director, Robert Redfield, appeared sporadically.
“I am proud to join this agency, and I recognize the seriousness of the moment. The toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on America is truly heartbreaking — for the loss of our loved ones and our beloved ways of life,” Dr. Walensky said. “At Massachusetts General Hospital, I saw firsthand the many difficulties this pandemic brings to our frontline workers and first responders, hospitals and public health systems, communities, and loved ones.”
“Better, healthier days lie ahead. But to get there, COVID-19 testing, surveillance, and vaccination must accelerate rapidly,” she said. “We must also confront the longstanding public health challenges of social and racial injustice and inequity that have demanded action for far too long. And we must make up for potentially lost ground in areas like suicide, substance use disorder and overdose, chronic diseases, and global health initiatives.”