Director of Centers for Disease Prevention and Prevention Rachel ValenskyDirector Rachel Valensky (CDC) is running Canada on pandemic reports. Sunday preview: Democrats are reviewing the infrastructure bill; Health experts warn of a fourth wave of coronavirus. Health overnight: CDC states that fully vaccinated people can ride safely Biden experiences those who act as if COVID-19 is fighting over | Will vaccine passports become the main issue of the company in 2022? MORE finds itself in a fragile position as it seeks to balance the optimism of increasing vaccination with the reality that the US is still trapped in a deadly pandemic.
Valensky began working at the CDC with a reputation as a smart communicator tasked with rescuing the reputation of the agency, which had suffered from the Trump administration.
“When I first started working at the CDC about two months ago, I promised you: I would tell you the truth, even if it wasn’t the news we wanted to hear,” Valensky told reporters recently.
Knowledge Valensky, like her predecessor, is involved in HIV research Robert RedfieldRobert Redfield CDC director goes on the couch reports of a pandemic Biologist Bret Weinstein says COVID-19 probably came from the lab.and prior to her appointment as head of the CDC she was head of infectious diseases at Massachusetts Hospital.
While former colleagues believe Valensky is ideal for the CDC position, her skills are now being tested as she faces criticism for being too negative and too credible.
“She’s a pretty compelling and understandable communicator, but it’s a challenging set of messages to try to get out there,” said Chris Beyrer, a professor of epidemiology at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Sharing public health messages during a global pandemic is challenging enough, but experts say this particular moment is particularly difficult.
After weeks of recession and then stagnation, the level of coronavirus infection began to rise again across much of the country. Compared to the previous week, the incidence increased by 12 percent nationwide, averaging about 62,000 cases per day, according to the CDC.
At the same time, nearly 100 million Americans received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Many states are expanding the right to the vaccine, in some cases for all adults, and federal health officials say that by the end of May, everyone will have enough vaccination.
This week, Valensky tried to emphasize both aspects when he made an emotional appeal to the public.
“We have so much to expect, so many promises and potential where we are, and so much reason to hope. But now I’m scared,” Valensky said, adding that she had a “sense of impending doom” when people continued to ignore health measures. .
Yet almost on the next breath she spoke of an “extremely encouraging” new study that found that vaccinated people are 90 percent protected from infection, meaning they pose an extremely low risk of spreading the virus.
While this may come in the form of mixed reports, experts say it accurately reflects not only what stands now, but also how the country has responded to the virus over the past year.
“Boys are a true reflection of how we all experience the epidemic and how we react to it. So I prefer her to be honest about it, and others to give people what they want … to make them feel. feel better, ”said Judith Auerbach, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Auerbach, who previously worked with Valensky on HIV research, praised the director’s openness, which she said was lacking in the agency’s leadership during the Trump administration.
“She’s really honest about her own emotions. It’s hard for a rich person to do and leave,” Auerbach said. “The science that says we actually still need to be very scared because we’re involved in this race between vaccines … compared to the advent of those options, and she felt it on a visceral level, and she said that way, which, in my opinion, was quite revealing. “
Glenn Novak, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communications at the University of Georgia and former director of media relations at the CDC, said Valensky’s sincerity helps build credibility.
“She accepted the fact that trust is driven by transparency, honesty and sincerity regarding your fears and problems,” Novak said.
The CDC declined to make Valensky available for interview, but in a statement to The Hill, a spokesman for the agency said each piece of information reflects the latest research and epidemiology.
“Sometimes moments should balance the hope that we will emerge from a pandemic with a reality we have not yet left,” the spokesman said.
“We recognize the challenge of transmitting such hope and promise that vaccines provide the reality that cases and deaths are rising. While we send an important message that people cannot and should not give up their prevention measures, we remain very optimistic about what the future holds. fully vaccinated public. “
On Friday, Valensky was again criticized for his reports. In an updated recommendation, the CDC stated that it is safe to travel to people who have been fully vaccinated.
But Valensky expressed caution, saying the CDC still recommends people vaccinated or not to avoid optional travel because the number of infections is so high.
“We know we have an increasing number of cases now,” Valensky said during a briefing at the White House. “I would oppose general travel in general. Our recommendations are silent on whether or not to recommend trips to fully vaccinated people. Our guidelines speak to the safety of this.”
Novak said part of what makes public health messaging so challenging is that science doesn’t always deal in absolute circumstances, and the general public is not coping well with the nuances.
“Often people don’t want to listen to the nuances; they want advice and recommendations to be stable. They are frustrated with change or when it seems contradictory. They are also frustrated when it doesn’t fit into their daily life experience,” Novak said.
Pointing out the journey, Valensky tried to prescribe the balance she was trying to achieve, and asked the public for patience and understanding.
“I want to acknowledge today that providing guidance in the midst of a changing pandemic and its changing science is challenging,” Valensky said.
“Science shows us that full vaccination allows us to do more safety, and it’s important for us to make such recommendations even in the context of growing cases. At the same time, we need to balance science with the fact that most Americans are not yet fully vaccinated. probably contributes to an increase in the number of cases, ”she said.
Jen Cates, director of global health policy and HIV at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who has known Valencani for decades, said she believes the CDC director knows he can’t avoid criticism, especially when so many people are tired. pandemic.
If the CDC is too strict and refuses to maintain relatively normal behavior, especially after vaccination, it could run the risk of people refusing to take a shot, Cates said.
But if the agency gives an overly hilarious picture, more people may behave as if the pandemic is over and risk further spread of the virus.
“Government officials always need to be aware that their words are being listened to and can be taken out of context, or people find it difficult to understand,” Cates said. “So I think Dr. Valensky speaks great, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to do, and the balance is always simple.”