August 14, 2020

As COVID-19 Spreads Out of Control, CDC Declines to Use Authority to Stem the Surge

CDC's excuse: It's "learning more" about the virus while U.S. tops 5 million cases and more than 160,000 deaths; Several State and Local Governments Fail to Implement Measures to Stop the Spread

Warren's letter to CDC (PDF) 

CDC response (PDF) 

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, released a statement following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) weak and inadequate response on using its broad legal authority to implement and enforce public health measures under the Public Health Service Act, which gives the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC Director significant authority to "take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states."

"I asked the CDC if it will use its existing authority to rein in the spread of the virus, and implement desperately needed public health measures when states and localities fail to do so. But the agency declined, and instead made excuses about how it's still 'learning' about the virus," said Senator Warren. "With more than 5 million cases, 166,000 Americans dead, and out of control surges in states and cities across the country, the CDC needs to get off the sidelines and use its power to save lives - and most importantly, President Trump needs to get out of its way." 

Senator Warren specifically asked whether, given a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, the CDC has considered efforts to implement targeted mask requirements, a limit on gatherings, and other measures that the agency has recommended to stop the spread of the virus. The CDC responded that public health measures are "best implemented at the state and local level" even though some of the worst hit states refuse to put in place measures to stem the surge and the virus can be easily spread by infected individuals crossing state,city, or county lines. The CDC also said it will "continue to evaluate" using its existing authorities as they "learn more about this emerging infectious disease."