Scientists and physicians are expressing frustration and outrage following reports that top politically appointed Trump administration officials have demanded the right to edit and change weekly Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientific reports on the coronavirus pandemic ahead of their public release.
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR) are developed by scientists at the department to inform medical officials and the general public about the spread of COVID-19 and who is most at risk. According to a report from Politico on Saturday, the CDC has increasingly agreed to allow politically appointed officials to review mortality weekly reports and, in a few cases, alter the wording in the documents.
William Schaffner, who is on the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report’s editorial board, told USA Today he was “aghast” and “appalled” by the reported attempts to meddle with the reports, which provide key updates to doctors and health care providers working during the pandemic.
“This is outright egregious. It’s despicable,” Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, told USA Today. “What we’re seeing is multiple actors, important people who are just laying down, who are complicit with the anti-science machinations of the Trump administration.”
Others described the edits to a key, scientific report as “the fundamental undermining of trust,” and “horrific.”
Sherri Bucher, a global health researcher, wrote on Twitter: “There are no words to articulate how horrific this is. Trust & credibility, shattered, overnight. MMWR has been, for a long time, one of the most reliable, steadfast, scientific resources; unquestioned veracity, impeccable reputation for quality of data/analysis. No longer.”
When asked by Politico, which first reported the issue, about why HHS was demanding the changes, top Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo said in a statement that the department was appropriately reviewing the CDC’s reports.
“Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic—not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC,” he told Politico.