US CDC admits falling short in response to COVID-19

In this April 23, 2020 file photo, a sign is seen by the entrance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. (TAMI CHAPPELL / AFP)

LOS ANGELES / ROME / OTTAWA – The chief of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday acknowledged that the agency had failed to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, and announced plans for extensive changes.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC repeatedly faced criticism for its response, including initial delays in developing coronavirus test, severe eligibility limits to get tested, confusing public health recommendations, and releasing data too slowly

"To be frank, we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes, from testing to data to communications," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a video distributed to the agency's roughly 11,000 employees.

"For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations," she said in a statement.

"My goal is a new, public health, action-oriented culture at CDC that emphasizes accountability, collaboration, communication and timeliness," she said.

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Walensky appointed Mary Wakefield, former deputy health secretary in the Obama administration, to lead the efforts for change.

Walensky laid out several organizational changes the CDC will take over the coming months to correct missteps and failures that occurred during the last two and a half years of the pandemic, according to a report of CNBC, citing a fact sheet.

The organizational changes are focused on sharing data more quickly and making public health guidance easier for people to understand, according to the report.

The CDC is also creating an equity office to make sure the agency's workforce reflects the US population and better communicates public health guidance across all groups.

The recommendations for change come from an internal review of the CDC's structure, systems and processes that Walensky ordered in April.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC repeatedly faced criticism for its response, including initial delays in developing coronavirus test, severe eligibility limits to get tested, confusing public health recommendations, and releasing data too slowly.

Some public health experts complained that US briefings on the pandemic relied on data from other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Israel.

Even under the Biden administration, which appointed Walensky to lead the agency, its guidance and decision-making on masking, isolation and quarantine, and booster doses have been repeatedly faulted as slow, opaque and confusing, said a report of The Washington Post.

A consistent criticism has been the agency's failure to be agile, especially with the analysis and release of real-time data, said the report.

The White House has also grown frustrated with the CDC and other health agencies over their response to monkeypox, with regard to expedite testing, treatment and vaccine distribution.


The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on Canadians' mental health, but the impact was worse for people with mental health difficulties, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

Compared with individuals with no mental health difficulties, those with low-to-moderate and severe mental health difficulties were more likely to experience negative impacts due to the pandemic, such as emotional distress, difficulties meeting financial obligations or essential needs, loss of job or income, loneliness or isolation, and physical health problems, the national statistical agency said, quoting a survey result.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted many Canadian people and one in three Canadians indicated their mental health got worse due to the pandemic.

People wait at an Italian Red Cross anti COVID-19 vaccination hub in Rome on Nov 29, 2021. (GREGORIO BORGIA / AP)


Italy's coronavirus infection rate is on the rise again, reversing a month of declines to climb by 14.4 percent over the last week.

Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, saw the number of cases rise from mid-June to mid-July and then decline until the last few days — the latest of a series of infection waves that have hit the country.

The latest data from Italy's Ministry of Health showed more than 27,000 new infections Thursday, down from more than 36,000 a day earlier but around triple rates of fewer than 10,000 infections in the days before that.

For the week ending on Wednesday, total infections rose by 14.4 percent. Meanwhile, on Thursday the positivity rate — the percentage of coronavirus tests carried out that were positive — climbed to 16.3 percent from 15.8 percent.

The daily mortality rate is also on the rise, totaling 147 on Thursday, up from 128 a day earlier, 70 on Tuesday and 42 on Monday.

The up-and-down infection rate this summer has seen far lower peaks than during the big surge in infections starting late last year and stretching into early February, when daily infections topped 200,000 multiple times.

At the same time, mortality rates, while on the rise, remain far below daily peaks of more than 400 from early this year and nearly 1,000 during two major pandemic waves in 2020.

Italy's vaccination rate remains among the strongest in the European Union. As of Thursday, 94.1 percent of the country's population over the age of 12 have been either fully vaccinated or have recovered from a coronavirus infection in the previous six months, giving them natural immunity.