Press Release: On COVID 4 year anniversary: Experts call on CDC to recommit to public accountability


Press Release


View Online Press Conference Here


Contact for People’s CDC: 


On COVID 4 year anniversary: Experts call on CDC to recommit to public accountability 

Release policy paper demonstrating CDC has aligned guidance with business and political interests over public health. 


Atlanta, Georgia –  On the week of the fourth anniversary of the WHO COVID-19 pandemic, leading public health experts and disability advocates warn that in spite of our desire to forget, over 75000 US residents died from COVID-19 in 2023 and over 17 million US adults have COVID largo. Experts say the sudden elimination of COVID prevention measures will threaten public health and safety and the rights of disabled people, which are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 


The group will host a virtual press conference via Zoom on Wednesday, March 13 at 11AM EST/8AM PST to issue comments on the new CDC guidance. The People’s CDC, a CDC watchdog and public health advocacy group, will also release a forthcoming policy paper, recently accepted for publication in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine Focus and is available now as a pre-proof, which finds that the latest guidelines shift reflects a pattern seen throughout the pandemic, in which the CDC repeatedly aligned guidance with business and political interests over public health. The group will also. The organization will be joined by speakers from National Nurses United, Long COVID Justice Network and other patient and disability advocates. 


View the online press conference here


The coalition of experts and disability justice advocates will urge CDC Director Mandy Cohen and the Biden administration to:

1) Revisit the abrupt elimination of isolation guidelines

2) Open CDC guidance to a public comment period and 

3) Make CDC processes accountable to the public and community groups, not corporate interests, hospital groups and insurance companies. 


The CDC has faced increasing scrutiny since 2020. Most recently in fall 2023, a storm gathered around the CDC Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), forcing it to revise and clarify its guidelines for respiratory illnesses in response to overwhelming public pressure. The organizations participating in the Wednesday press conference were instrumental in moving the CDC to open its process to public input and will continue their campaign for public accountability from the Biden Administration in development of CDC guidance and including guarantees that all guidelines will facilitate protections for the rights of disabled people under the ADA. 


Experts warned that the CDC’s policy change runs counter to the agency’s own medical science, which shows that at least one in three people are contagious with COVID beyond day five. The new policy places the burden on individuals to protect themselves and each other, rather than addressing the social inequalities which make people sick. One in five US workers don’t have paid sick leave, and 43% of US residents are underinsured, lacking access to affordable health care. Disability advocates and public health experts underscored that community participation is fundamental to public health. They urge the CDC to recommit to a healthier 2024 by creating a public engagement process similar to the HICPAC review process in which thousands of people participated in November 2023.


“Rather than engaging with patients and communities who asked to be included in policies that impact them, the CDC rushed to implement this new guidance, which will make it nearly impossible for people to avoid COVID,” said Dr. Lara Jirmanus, People’s CDC member and Clinical Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and first author of the new policy paper. “This latest change demonstrates a pattern we have seen throughout the pandemic, and which we wrote about in our paper, where the CDC has aligned its guidance with political y commercial interests over public health. In February 2022, Biden’s CDC also made major public health policy changes just before the midterms. 75000 people in the United States died of COVID in 2023, and we still have 4 million people in this country disabled from Long COVID. The CDC offers us ‘simplified’ new guidance. Well I have a simple question for CDC Director Mandy Cohen: How does the CDC plan to help us have a healthier 2024?”


This policy is not based on new data,” said Dr. Kim Rhoads, Epidemiologist & Biostatistician at UCSF. “In fact, well-designed studies done in the post-Omicron and post-vaccination period show that COVID is often transmitted far beyond the fifth day of infection. COVID has killed an average of 1000 people every week since Christmas. We continue to learn more about its dangerous long-term effects on nearly every part of the body, including the brain, heart, and reproductive system.” 


Experts warned that COVID cases surge multiple times each year, rather than showing a seasonal trend as with the flu and other respiratory illnesses. COVID-19 also spreads more easily than the flu. Unlike the flu, about one in three people are contagious with COVID even before symptoms start.  And experts point out that COVID is also more deadly and disabling than the flu. Speakers will highlight the impact of Long COVID, which currently impacts nearly 17.5 million US adults, according to US census data


“Make no mistake: This wrongheaded policy will accelerate the current mass disablement of the American population. Long COVID, which already affects one in nine adults, is a risk in every COVID infection and re-infection,” said JD Davids, co-director of Strategies for High Impact and its Long COVID Justice project. “Neither CDC nor any other Biden administration agency has made significant effort to educate the US public about Long COVID. Instead they stress ready availability of COVID vaccines and treatments, which are harder and harder to come by – while ignoring that the millions with lives shattered by Long COVID include both unvaccinated and vaccinated people. We are now a nation where elders continue to face higher death rates, while their Long COVID is all but ignored; where adults struggle with mounting cognitive, physical and economic challenges; and where an estimated 6 million children with Long COVID face lasting chronic disease, organ damage and altered immune systems. How many more will join us, thanks to this unjust, unscientific and unwarranted shift that encourages rampant COVID infection?”


“CDC’s latest decision to once again weaken protections for public health is disheartening but also not surprising” said Rocelyn de Leon-Minch, Industrial Hygienist, with National Nurses United (NNU). “The CDC has a pattern of acquiescing to industry pressure, prioritizing the economy over worker and public health, especially throughout the Covid pandemic. Nurses have seen the devastating impacts of Covid and Long Covid on patients. Slashing the five-day Covid isolation guidance will mean more infections and more debilitating long-term health impacts of Covid. This follows HICPAC’s infection control guidance updates which similarly is a boon to industry at the expense of health care workers and public health. Health equity being central to the practice of nursing, nurses will continue to advocate for strong workplace and public health measures to protect and foster patients’ health and healing, at the bedside and beyond.”


Speakers Include: 

Rocelyn de Leon-Minch, Industrial Hygienist, National Nurses United

Lara Jirmanus, MD, MPH, Clinical Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School

Kim Rhoads, MD, MPH Epidemiologist & Biostatistician at University of California San Francisco (UCSF)

Lisa McCorkell, MPP, Co-founder, Patient Led Research Collaborative

Raj Chakalashiya, MS, Unit Chair, UAW Local 2865, University of California Santa Barbara 

Gabriel San Emeterio, LMSW, Long COVID Justice Network 



The People’s CDC is a CDC watchdog, and a public health advocacy and health justice group.

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