Is the CDC Burning Out from Continued Pandemic Issues?


The CDC has been dealing with the COVID pandemic for a while now. We’re entering the third year of COVID-19 ruling our lives. And while the messaging has changed periodically with the CDC, there’s one constant that we’re noticing: they’re all exhausted.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is finally waving the white flag to signal that burnout is a serious issue.

The Omicron variant has thrown everyone for a loop. Just as many thought that the pandemic’s end was near, the new variant resulted in more infections and more hospitalizations. It showed that the United States needed to brace for yet another difficult winter.

Many within the CDC have been dealing with COVID-19 since the very beginning. With the introduction of Omicron, it showed they were at their breaking point.

Walensky had no choice but to rally the troops and offer a “pep talk” as one CDC member called it. “We know this is tough, but we have to keep going.” That’s the message that was delivered.

The pandemic isn’t over. And if there’s any hope of it ever ending, the CDC has to have an all-hands-on-deck approach.

Unfortunately, burnout is common – not just with the CDC but with anyone dealing with the pandemic. Those within healthcare have felt it, those within education have felt it, and it reaches into virtually every industry in one way or another.

Scientists within the CDC are feeling burnout more than anyone. They’re trying to investigate the virus in order to protect the entire population.

Walensky along with others had hoped that the pandemic was on its way out. Just a few months ago, there were plans to dissolve some of the pandemic response teams. It would have meant that approximately 1500 staff positions would have been reassigned back to original posts.

However, the emergence of Omicron changed all of that. As caseloads increased, the staff on the pandemic response team had to take a deep breath and march forward.

Some officials are now saying that many inside of the CDC are facing low morale as well as a feeling of hopelessness. It leaves many questioning whether Walensky is capable of pulling everyone together and moving full steam ahead.

Another CDC official told POLITICO that “There’s no end in sight. We’re all tired.”

What does that mean? What can we really expect out of the CDC when they’re all admitting that they’re exhausted and have no real eye on the end of the pandemic?

Walensky has tried to address the issues, but there’s really no hope being offered throughout it all. “I have been working hard to ensure that people have adequate time away, that we are rotating people through the response and that we are providing data in real-time, but only the data that are needed in real-time so that people can actually take the time that they need.”

Is time off really going to help people, though? The moment that they return, they’re faced with the very real data from the CDC that the pandemic is still alive and well – and that there is no end in sight.

It’s easy to see how the CDC has burnt out, though. They’re so quick to listen to the Biden administration that they’re not bothering to trust the science any longer.

It might be time for a change in the leadership – perhaps someone who will follow the science, take into consideration natural immunity and actually work to find the end of the pandemic.

As the deal of Brown University’s School of Public Health, Ashish Jha explains, the CDC is “too bureaucratic, its tools still too slow.” The organization is slow and irrelevant, and the best thing that we can do is rely on someone other than Dr. Rochelle Walensky to lead the charge from here on out.