COVID source callout: Lack of transparency from CDC committee

Last week, I shared an update about the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), a group of advisors to the CDC that has been working on updated guidelines for limiting infectious disease spread in healthcare settings. The committee has faced criticism for failing to incorporate lessons from COVID-19 into its guidance, as well as for a lack of transparency in its operations.

The transparency issues continued this week, according to a press release by National Nurses United (NNU), a nurses union that’s been at the forefront of advocacy for better infection control guidelines. HICPAC only released a draft of its updated guidance on November 2, the day before it voted on the document. And it’s only giving the American public five days to review the document and provide feedback through public comments.

“HICPAC’s draft is permissive and weak and seeks not just to maintain existing practice — which has been shown to be inadequately protective — but even rolls back the use of some important measures, such as airborne infection isolation rooms,” said NNU president Zenei Triunfo-Cortez in a statement.

Despite calls to delay a vote on this document until hearing from healthcare workers and public health experts, HICPAC voted unanimously to finalize the guidance draft during its meeting this week. The vote indicates a lack of public transparency and a lack of consideration for relevant health expertise—which is troubling considering how influential this guidance is for setting standards in healthcare centers across the country.

For more details about HICPAC and instructions on making public comments, see this CDC webpage.

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