Big changes are happening in the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) agency. The CDC will be voluntarily reorganizing itself while asking Congress for more money and more power to fix its own mistakes. The declaration from Director Rochelle Walensky came a month after a surprise announcement that another HHS agency, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), would be given more power and responsibility in pandemic management,[i], [ii] leaving Americans to wonder how their tax dollars are being used – and what could happen to their liberties – as agencies with unelected officials expand rapidly after mismanaging America’s public health during the declared COVID pandemic.
What the CDC wants will cost Americans too much in tax dollars and in liberty.
It’s a widely accepted truth that the American government’s response to COVID-19 hurt more people than it helped. Some are outraged that the government didn’t do more, and more quickly, to curtail rights of Americans in the name of the greater good and some are devastated by harms from withheld treatments. Americans are angered at censorship and lies about COVID and its treatments or prevention attempts. And the taxpayer money that was poured into emergency spending measures did not stop the suffering or deaths of the American people.
The CDC is the public face of failure for federal COVID policy. And now the CDC wants to expand. Director Rochelle Walensky announced in August 2022 that the agency would undergo a major overhaul – a “reset,” – to address its failures managing public health emergencies. She issued no apology to the American people for the devastation caused by bad federal policy and guidance.
The announcement from Walensky is in response to the results of an agency investigation announced in April 2022. Walensky stated that an agency review and overhaul wasn’t ordered by the White House, but was her own idea. The investigation was led by an individual with decades of experience in HHS, and as far as it’s reported, he had no input from the American public or from private stakeholders. The report of the CDC internal investigation has yet to be released.
Walensky wants the agency to move faster and communicate better. The story of the agency is told as one of slow and careful scientists in ivory towers, paid to publish rather than act, who desperately need “modernization” (and more money). To address its failures, we’re told the CDC needs more data, more money, and more authority. News story after news story tells a tale of transformation, where the CDC will convert its culture from academic to action-oriented, saving us from the next (inevitable) pandemic.
In an email to CDC staff, Director Walensky laid out some of the changes to come:
- Increase the use of preprints to get information out more quickly, rather than waiting for peer-reviewed reports in the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report).
- Create a new executive council to set strategy and priorities (with no information about how this would differ from the existing Advisory Committee to the Director).
- Restructure the agency’s communications office and revamp the website and other messaging.
- Require outbreak response agency leaders to stay at least six months in that position before returning to their regular duties.
- Create a new office on intergovernmental affairs.
- Create a new office on health equity.
- Hire Mary Wakefield, former HRSA Director in the Obama administration, and a nurse, to oversee all the changes.[iii]
The Washington Post reported Walensky will ask Congress to mandate state data sharing with the agency.[iv] The states don’t currently have to report to the CDC and can protect the private health information of their own citizens from widespread use. There are also plans to change the way the agency hires and incentivizes employees, as well as restructuring the organization of existing divisions and offices.
The restructure had already begun months before the public announcement. Wakefield is already on the job. She brings her years of experience heading the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as well as acting deputy secretary of HHS under the Obama administration. She served as subcommittee chair for former President Clinton’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry. Trained as a nurse, Wakefield has held numerous educational positions, has worked as a staffer in the U.S. Senate, and has advised or presented on health policy in many arenas.[v] She has also worked in Geneva as a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO).[vi]
The CDC also started ramping up their communication strategy by hiring Kevin Griffs to head their efforts. Griffs held public affairs and communications positions in the Obama administration. He left government work to become VP for Communication at Planned Parenthood while Donald Trump was in office and made his way back to the federal government with the Biden administration as new head of the CDC’s communication.[vii]
Another part of the “reset” that is already in motion is a cryptic announcement by Walensky in May 2022 that the Incident Management Structure CDC team that coordinated the national response to COVID would “return some of its functioning to other departments.”[viii] (No mention was made of ASPR’s new role at the time, but one could wonder about those discussions behind closed doors at the White House.)
The CDC is hoping to start implementing changes by early 2023.[ix]
The economic costs of CDC expansion are too great.
The CDC claims they need more funding to better respond to public health emergencies. The Congressional Research Service estimates that through February 2022, the CDC itself received over $27 billion dollars and administered over $56 billion dollars in grants to address COVID and update data infrastructure. This money is in addition to the typical annual budget of the organization which is around $8 billion for program costs.
As of February 28, 2022, the CDC has received $27.226 billion through the COVID-19 relief appropriations measures. Some of the one-time public health funding in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA; P.L. 117-2) was not tied to the pandemic, but instead was made available for general public health capabilities, such as for data modernization (Section 2404; $500 million). In addition, the CDC has administered over $40 billion in appropriations on behalf of HHS through its grant programs (from the PHSSEF account). As a result, $56.119 billion in CDC COVID-19 grants have been awarded to state, tribal, and local agencies as of February 1, 2022.[xi] -Congressional Research Service
Even with all that funding — almost four times its yearly budget — the director of the CDC admitted failure in handling public health emergencies. How much more funding should the CDC get?
“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,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.[x]
Despite these acknowledged failures, and the fact that the White House is expanding pandemic response of ASPR (which will now be known as the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response), the president proposes to do it again. The President’s FY2023 budget would increase the CDC’s budget from just under $9 billion dollars to $38.76 billion, a 356.9% increase relative to 2022, according to the Congressional Research Service.[xii] This includes a new mandatory pandemic preparedness appropriation of $28 billion, but even without that, the president still proposes to increase the CDC budget by 27% over the previous year.
Walensky will be asking Congress to restructure CDC access to funds, so the agency can have more control over what money goes where. History shows us this would be a complete disaster when we see that for years, the CDC has prioritized chronic disease programs, or lifestyle choices like vaping, over infectious disease prevention and mitigation.[xiii]
The CDC’s proposed restructuring adds more to an already bloated agency. Why does the director need a new executive council when she already has the Advisory Committee to the Director?
Walensky and the White House are calling for more CDC money, but the amount of money injected into the CDC during the COVID emergency response was astronomical and led to one of the greatest public health disasters in our country’s history.
According to the Congressional Research Service, “[i]n the United States, most public health activities are carried out by state and local governments” and a large part of that funding comes from CDC grants or cooperative agreements. American tax dollars do not need to be funneled through the CDC for states to perform their constitutionally protected function of protecting public health and welfare. Americans would be better served by allowing those tax dollars to stay at home rather than going to a federal agency that wants less accountability.
Further, CDC money can come with strings — when states or localities get grants and awards from the CDC, many times they are required to follow CDC guidance, which could end with disastrous consequences. States are better equipped to know the unique needs of their own citizens and communities. States are also able to be nimbler and more responsive more quickly than a huge federal government that must account for the needs of a whole country. Moving decision making and discretion away from states and local communities when it comes to public health is bad policy, especially after demonstrated failure of the federal agency.
But the CDC does not just move federal tax dollars back to the states, it also “awards funding to a variety of other entities, including international governments and organizations; tribal governments and organizations; academia and research institutions; and nonprofit organizations.”[xiv] The CDC notes in its 2023 budget justification that its global surveillance programs “will be coordinated with public health data modernization initiatives to ensure interoperability and accessibility of data collected in order to provide timely and actionable information to decision makers.”[xv] With more control over how they spend their money, “flexible” grants that include public-private partnerships.”
Further, the CDC is asking Congress to add a mandatory spending appropriation to expand adult immunization. The CDC proposes to create a Vaccines for Adults program, modeled on the Vaccines for Children program, that would provide vaccines for free for qualifying adults, in order to increase the number of adults in compliance with ACIP recommendations on the adult immunization schedule. The rationale is that giving adults free pharmaceutical products will increase the ability to get shots in adult arms during the next pandemic.
The CDC will ignore fundamental rights in the name of the greater good.
The CDC worked with social media to suppress free speech, then admitted they were wrong.
Many Americans questioned the guidance from the CDC about masking, social distancing, isolation, lockdowns, and the COVID shots. These Americans were labeled anti-vaxxers and deplatformed from their social media accounts in a direct and blatant violation of their First Amendment rights.
Many governors across the country stood up to unfounded CDC direction and allowed their citizens to keep businesses and schools open, prohibited COVID shot mandates, and more. Interestingly, the places that did not heed CDC guidance fared the best throughout the declared pandemic.
The CDC quietly issued new guidance in line with what questioning Americans have said from the start, but has issued no apology to the billions of Americans they have harmed with bad policy. There has been no acknowledgement that their actions to suppress the flow of information about the experimental COVID shots, or any pandemic health policy, harmed Americans.
But now the CDC wants to double down on efforts to manage “communication,” and continue to address “vaccine hesitancy.”
The CDC believes there’s a different Fourth Amendment for them.
The HHS and the CDC assert that Americans do not have typical Fourth Amendment protections in a public health action. “HHS/CDC notes that courts have recognized that while the requirements for probable cause and a warrant generally apply in a criminal context, these standards do not apply when the government is conducting a non-law-enforcement-related activity.”[xvi]
As SHF reported in our campaign against the WHO, in 2017, the CDC updated its own regulations on domestic quarantine to “include new regulatory language clarifying when an individual who is moving between U.S. states is “reasonably believed to be infected” with a quarantinable communicable disease in a “qualifying stage.” These determinations are made when the CDC considers the need to apprehend or examine an individual for potential infection with a quarantinable communicable disease.”
The final rule also updated regulatory language to align with existing criminal penalties set forth in the statute.
In response to comments from concerned Americans, the CDC addressed opposition to the rule “because of a perceived negative social impact upon individuals placed under a public health order.” They responded that “one compelling reason for the publication of this final rule is to make the public aware of these measures so that the words, purposes, and meanings of “quarantine” and “isolation” become more familiar and less likely to cause public anxiety and stigmatization.” In other words, in 2017, the CDC was actively working to normalize “public health order” to quarantine and isolate Americans.
As if they had a crystal ball, some Americans in 2017 were concerned about the potential use of cell phones or wearable technology for the purpose of electronic monitoring. Three years later, the CDC did exactly that during the declared COVID pandemic. As reported by SHF, it was revealed that the CDC purchased cell phone data to track compliance with lockdown mandates. In 2017, the CDC’s position was: “CDC acknowledges that the use of wearable tracking technology may be necessary in rare situations when a person does not comply with the required monitoring or when it is necessary to know the physical whereabouts of the person to ensure that they are not in a public place. While HHS/CDC acknowledges that public health surveillance of ill or exposed individuals through electronic monitoring may raise some privacy concerns, HHS/CDC believes that protecting the public’s health outweighs these concerns.”
This 2017 regulation created a definition for a “precommunicable stage” of illness, starting from “an individual’s earliest opportunity for exposure to an infectious agent.” In this age of contact tracing, this means any app you have that automatically collects exposure data from other cell phones, for example, would get you on a list of Americans with a “precommunicable” disease, subject to potential “federal isolation.”
CDC mistakes had nothing to do with lack of data or funding.
What’s the problem with giving the CDC more power? It costs too much. American tax dollars are being sucked into a vacuum of federal expansion, while unelected officials at agencies grasp at more control and less accountability.
The mistakes the CDC made had nothing to do with lack of funding. It’s clear from the numbers above that the agency will stumble and harm Americans more with every extra dollar they get.
It’s also clear that the bad policy coming from the CDC had nothing to do with a lack of data. The mistakes came from ignoring basic science, common sense, and mishandling the data it had.
The biggest mistakes the CDC made would not have been prevented with more data.
Top 10 CDC COVID Policy Mistakes
Stand for Health Freedom has exposed massive problems with the data the CDC collected that formed the basis for their COVID policy. At the core of this data disaster was a CDC decision to change the way COVID deaths were reported, which obscured statistics across the country. (Take a deep dive on this at the SHF page for CDC Investigation.)
CDC wants more data but doesn’t know what’s happening in their own backyard. At a congressional hearing, Director Walensky stated she didn’t know how many of her own 11,000 employees are vaccinated.[xx]
A recent MMWR publication shows the CDC retreating to what many Americans already knew: we should not discriminate based on COVID shot status, because natural immunity provides protection.[xxi]
Despite mishandling the data they already have, the CDC wants Congress to mandate that states give them the data of private citizens.
The Immunization Information System has long been viewed as a potential way to track the vaccination status of Americans and to form the basis of a national digital vaccine credential. But the CDC has shown us they believe the rights to privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure should bow to their public health decisions.
The CDC needs to learn how to manage the data they already have and commit to following Fourth Amendment rights before asking for data floodgates to be opened to their agency.
Take action today! Your congresspeople need to know that more data and more money for the CDC has already proven to be harmful to Americans. They must take a stand and say no to any mandated state sharing of private health information, and no to massive funding increases.
Steps You Can Take
Step One: Take action now to tell the U.S. Congress that CDC’s mistakes will only get bigger as the agency grows. Send a letter urging them to say no to CDC expansion.
Step Two: This year’s mid-term elections are crucial for your rights to health privacy and informed consent. Make sure you’re supporting candidates who will work to protect your medical and health rights!
References & Sources
References & Sources
[ii] https://www.theepochtimes.com/the-cdc-failed-so-spin-it-off-and-make-it-more-powerful_4673787.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/07/20/biden-administration-aspr-independent-division/
[xv] https://www.cdc.gov/budget/documents/fy2023/FY-2023-CDC-congressional-justification.pdf, page 59.