CDC to scientists: Shh!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is the largest federal agency headquartered outside Washington. JENNI GIRTMAN/Special

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly cracking down on the release of information to the public by its scientists and other staff members.

Axios, an online political-news site, obtained a memo from CDC public affairs officer Jeffrey Lancashire, who instructed agency employees not to speak to reporters “even for a simple data-related question.”

“Effective immediately and until further notice, any and all correspondence with any member of the news media, regardless of the nature of the inquiry, must be cleared through CDC’s Atlanta communications office,” the Aug. 31 memo said, according to Axios. “This correspondence includes everything from formal interview requests to the most basic of data requests.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the CDC’s Atlanta communications office Tuesday, only to encounter a recording that suggested calling again later.

The CDC has long kept tight control over its external communications, as well as over its campus on Clifton Road. The complex has evolved into an armed encampment in the post-9/11 world.

But individual scientists and researchers have generally been available to explain their findings – which, of course, often have major implications for public health and, therefore, tend to interest the public (also known as taxpayers).

But the CDC, the largest federal agency based outside Washington, has a new boss: Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, who formerly ran Georgia’s public health agency. And since President Donald Trump took office, many other agencies with scientific missions have been instructed to keep quiet. Some government scientists have chosen new ways to communicate, such as the Alternative CDC Twitter account, launched in January by an unidentified group of “concerned scientists for humanity.”

 

 


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