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The CDC moved too slowly at several points in the coronavirus pandemic, ultimately hindering the U.S. response, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes in a new book, Uncontrolled Spread.

The big picture: The book argues that American intelligence agencies should have a much bigger role in pandemic preparedness, even if that's sometimes at the expense of public health agencies like the CDC.

  • "Typically, security agencies have viewed the CDC as 'having this mission' or 'having the ball on this.' Clearly they don't," Gottlieb told Axios.

Details: The CDC initially recommended 10 feet of social distancing, but officials in the Trump administration pushed the agency to reduce that to six feet — which still required many schools to stay closed.

  • "If that had gotten out at the time, everyone would had said 'Oh my God. It's White House interference in the CDC.' But the White House was right to oppose it. It was arbitrary and it couldn't be implemented," Gottlieb said.
  • "That was the single costliest recommendation the CDC issued during this whole pandemic," he said.
  • Under the Biden administration, the CDC finally reduced social distancing recommendations to three feet — based on data that had been available for six months.

Better intelligence at the beginning of an outbreak would also help the U.S. swing into action more quickly, Gottlieb writes.

  • "We need to have human assets in the medical community so we understand when an outbreak emerges," he said. "We need to have the capability of monitoring typical streams of intelligence, like signals intelligence and maybe even satellite intelligence, looking for things that could be trip wires for an outbreak of disease."

The intrigue: Gottlieb confirms that some Trump administration officials had an "attitude of emphatic nonchalance about the pandemic, often mocking personal precautions as marks of weakness, taunting colleagues who wore masks."

  • Gottlieb said he told Trump not to pull the U.S. out of the World Health Organization, but also criticized the Biden administration's "hasty" return to WHO without certain conditions attached.

The book comes out Sept. 21.

Go deeper

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

CDC director: U.S. may change definition of "fully vaccinated" as boosters roll out

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday the U.S. "may need to update" its definition for what it means to have full vaccination against COVID.

The big picture: The CDC and the FDA have officially approved boosters with every authorized vaccine in the U.S. for people who meet specific requirements. Walensky explained that since not everyone is eligible for a booster, the definition has not been changed "yet."

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Illinois mandates daycare workers to receive COVID vaccine or weekly testing

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a round table discussion with high school students in October 2018. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Friday that all daycare workers in the state will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or or submit to weekly testing.

Driving the news: Pritzker said he was issuing the requirement to protect "babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine."

Oct 21, 2021 - Health

CDC: Salmonella outbreak linked to whole onions

Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The CDC announced on Thursday a salmonella outbreak linked to imported red, white and yellow onions.

Why it matters: The outbreak has now reached 37 states, with 652 illnesses and 129 hospitalizations, per the CDC alert.