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The search for a new CDC director

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Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The search is on for a new director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, following Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation amid a growing uproar over financial conflicts of interest.

Between the lines:

  • Fitzgerald came to the CDC from Georgia’s health department — she was an ally of former HHS secretary Tom Price. Her departure gives the new HHS secretary, Alex Azar, a visible symbolic break from the ethical problems that ultimately defined, and ended, Price’s brief tenure.
  • The situation was also getting untenable even with Republicans on Capitol Hill. “There was already strong concern due to her recusal issues and then when news broke about her tobacco purchases, the dam of frustration broke,” a GOP aide told Politico.

The impact: At least in theory, this is not a great time for the CDC to be without a Senate-confirmed leader. We’re in the middle of a massive and deadly flu season, and the CDC is in charge of helping to coordinate the response among federal, state and local agencies, as well as tracking the virus.

  • The opioid epidemic also rages on, and there, too, CDC’s monitoring programs make it a critically important player.

Yes, but: The opioid crisis was one of the areas from which Fitzgerald had partially recused herself due to financial conflicts. For now, the agency is in the hands of principal deputy director Anne Schuchat, who’s been at the CDC for a long time.

  • And even though finding a new director will take some time, having someone who’s able to work on these issues — and communicate with Capitol Hill about them — might be worth the wait, especially as Azar looks to turn the page on a troubled year at HHS.
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