Sen. Elizabeth Warren asks CDC whether they will use federal authority to curb pandemic spread

Sen. Elizabeth Warren asks CDC whether they will use federal authority to curb pandemic spread
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield visited the NIH on June 12, 2018. In this image Dr. Redfield visits the Vaccine Research Center and learns about universal flu vaccine development. Dr. Anthony Fauci (r), Director of NIAID, accompanied the visit. Credit: National Institutes of Health

As even Donald Trump himself warns that the United States’ COVID-19 pandemic is "going to get worse," Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a few questions for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield. Broadly phrased, the questions boil down to 1.) what are you planning to do about it and 2.) no, really, is the CDC planning to do a damn thing about it?

In a letter to the CDC director, Warren notes that Redfield himself said that widespread mask usage would "bring this epidemic under control," notes that the CDC has significant power to stop interstate pandemic spreads when states screw things up themselves, and therefore "Specifically, I would like you to provide me with information on whether the CDC has considered efforts to implement mask requirements, a limit on gatherings, and other measures that the CDC has recommended to stop the spread of the virus."

Warren, who on Tuesday published her own recommendations for combating the pandemic, wants "information on the CDC's existing legal authorities to implement and enforce public health measures under section 261 of the Public Health Service Act." While Redfield's CDC has issued advisories and guidelines on what actions states should take to curb the pandemic, the CDC and Trump administration have made none of them mandatory. Instead, the administration continues to be more interested in forcing the "mandatory" in-person reopening of schools by threatening to withhold federal funds to any that refuse.

"I would like to know whether the CDC will use its authorities to intervene in instances where state governors or other officials order the removal of restrictions or mask mandates," Warren wrote.

The answer to this is almost assuredly no, for no better reason than Redfield has been ordered to take no action to prevent state reopenings and has already overseen past watering-down of CDC recommendations to avoid angering Donald Trump. But the letter will provide a jumping-off point for Redfield to attempt to explain his actions before the Senate next grills him on our country’s now-runaway pandemic spread.


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