The CDC held a press conference on Friday for the first time since March 9, with director Robert Redfield pushing back against criticism that the agency failed to adequately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to resume regular press conferences came after the death toll in the United States surpassed 130,000.
The CDC was reportedly sidelined by the White House after a conference by Dr. Nancy Messonnier. Messonnier, who is the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned about the dangers of the novel coronavirus, which rattled investors and apparently angered President Donald Trump.
According to CNN's sources, tensions between the White House and the CDC began as early as February, but the relationship further deteriorated after the March 9 press conference. Since then, the two camps have reportedly feuded about when and how to reopen the country.
"In interviews with CNN, CDC officials said they've been 'muzzled' and that their agency's efforts to mount a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic were hamstrung by a White House whose decisions are driven by politics rather than science."However, in an April interview, Redfield denied that the agency was being sidelined by the White House.
"No, I wouldn't say that at all. I think we're fully engaged in all of the decisions. We're at the task force meeting every single day," he said
In recent weeks, Trump and his allies have aggressively pushed for a reopening, while prominent White House task force members such as Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci have also cut down on public appearances.Reports have also alleged that Birx, who is the Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Redfield have butted heads. During a meeting, Birx reportedly pointed to the CDC's data collection system and told Redfield that "there is nothing from the CDC that I can trust."
Trump has reportedly had disagreements with Fauci and other officials but not with Birx, who "has found a way to shut down his bad ideas without making him feel diminished."
As The Washington Post reported earlier this week, the White House recently removed the CDC's warnings about the spread of coronavirus in houses of worship. Some White House officials reportedly believe that the agency went too far with its recommendations on restrictions regarding singing in church choirs.