This past Thursday, the CDC held a media briefing. Normally, this wouldn’t be big news; the agency is expected to alert the press—and by extension, the American public—of major new developments in its work. During the pandemic, however, the very existence of these briefings has become newsworthy.
The CDC held COVID-19 briefings regularly throughout January, February, and March, then stopped abruptly at the height of the spring outbreak in the Northeast. The next briefing after that was in June, and they’ve been sporadic since. Before Thursday’s call, the previous two briefings were held in late October and mid-August.
Thursday’s press call highlighted the release of a new CDC guidance, which encourages Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and provides safety suggestions for those who feel they must travel. Reporters on the call (fairly) questioned why the CDC put out this new guidance now, only a week before the holiday, when many Americans have already made plans. Public health experts, science communicators, and others (including this newsletter) have been calling for reduced Thanksgiving travel for several weeks now.
Still, the guidance and associated press call indicate that the CDC wants to step up as the nation’s outbreak worsens. Whether the agency can regain public trust remains to be seen.