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President Trump calls on reporters during a news conference with White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

More than 1,000 current and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemic intelligence officers have signed an open letter, decrying "the ominous politicization" of the agency throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The CDC is typically at the forefront of the U.S. response to public health crises, but the agency has largely been sidelined during the COVID-19 outbreak, with the White House attempting to control messaging, which, at times, contradicts scientific evidence.

What they're saying: "We hereby express our concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation’s health protection agency during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," the letter, which was first published in May and recently surpassed 1,000 signatures, reads.

  • "In previous public health crises, CDC provided the best available information and straightforward recommendations directly to the public. It was widely respected for effectively synthesizing and applying scientific evidence from epidemiologists and biomedical researchers at CDC and worldwide."
  • "Its historic credibility was based on incomparable expertise and 70+ years of institutional memory. That focus and organization is hardly recognizable today," the letter, so far signed by 1,044 people, states.
  • "The absence of national leadership on COVID-19 is unprecedented and dangerous."
  • "Inconsistent contact tracing efforts are confined within each state’s borders — while coronavirus infections sadly are not. Such chaos is what CDC customarily avoided by its long history of collaboration with state and local health authorities in developing national systems for disease surveillance and coordinated control."
  • "CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency. We urgently call upon the American people to demand and our nation’s leaders to allow CDC to resume its indispensable role."

The other side: A Trump administration official told WSJ that "the CDC occupies a critical seat on the (coronavirus) task force, which is made up of public health leaders with an array of valuable expertise."

Go deeper: Read the full letter by the epidemic intelligence service officers

Go deeper

Jan 24, 2021 - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.