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The Editors

How to Make the CDC Matter Again

Missteps during the pandemic have eroded the agency’s reputation as competent and dependable.

It hasn’t been all blue skies.

It hasn’t been all blue skies.

Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

For many years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was known as the world’s preeminent public-health agency. No longer. During the pandemic, the CDC stumbled repeatedly. Accused of incompetence, overreach and muddled messaging, it is now in need of repair. Director Rochelle Walensky was right to order a review of the agency’s operations in early April. She shouldn’t shrink from significant reforms.

To be sure, some of the CDC’s troubles have resulted from political interference. Donald Trump’s White House sought to undermine the agency by second-guessing its guidance and advice. Political operatives pushed to revise some of its publications and revoked its authority to gather hospital Covid data from the states. Although President Joe Biden has shown greater respect for the CDC’s expertise, he has kept White House personnel involved in Covid communications and thereby helped to muddle the message and confuse the public.