Senator Cassidy: Hard to trust CDC after lack of transparency
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on September 14 defended the fact that most agency employees work remotely every day or on some days.
“The people who need to be at the CDC are at the CDC,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director, told Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) at a hearing in Washington.
Cassidy had on file an Epoch Times article detailing a response to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that found just under 22% of the CDC’s roughly 13,000 workers work full-time in person. , while about 43% are completely remote. The rest is in between.
Cassidy expressed frustration that Walensky and the CDC had repeatedly pushed back on his efforts to get the numbers and said trust between the public and the CDC had been “dissipated” by the lack of transparency. He noted that the CDC was asking for billions more in emergency funding and wondered why it should be granted.
“It’s incredibly frustrating that a deliberate decision was made not to be transparent with the American people about how many people actually show up for work. It takes a FOIA request from a newspaper. And now you ask for billions more Why should we trust [you]?” Cassidy asked.
Walensky then said employees who have to work in person at the CDC, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, are there, specifically mentioning lab workers.
“We have many people on the ground in 60 different countries,” she said, adding later that workers are often “more productive” offsite.
Walensky works remotely
Cassidy noted that this still leaves many workers who are not in the field working remotely or from home. Walensky said many workers, including herself, are often on the road, citing how she was in Washington and recently traveled to Atlanta and New Mexico. According to Walensky’s profiles, she is often not in Atlanta and sometimes works from her home in Massachusetts.
Walensky recently announced that internal reviews have concluded that the CDC has not done as well as it should have during the COVID-19 pandemic and agency reform.
Cassidy quoted Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC during the Obama administration, who recently told the New York Times that he couldn’t see big changes being made when Walensky sees most workers through a screen.
“I don’t know how you motivate and inspire culture change when people aren’t together,” Besser said.
Cassidy asked Walensky how many workers showed up for in-person work before the pandemic.
“I don’t have those numbers for you,” Walensky replied.
“I don’t think anyone here or anyone watching really thinks that only 22% of CDC employees showed up to work in the building before the pandemic. They think it was probably 78%, and now the number is reversed,” Cassidy said. “It’s going to be difficult for me to sustain more appropriations until we have a better relationship, a more trusting relationship, a more transparent relationship between the agency and the congress that you’re asking to fund your activities.”