How the CDC missed chances to spot COVID's silent spread

Critics have widely asserted that the CDC fumbled key decisions during the coronavirus scourge because then-President Donald Trump and his administration meddled in the agency’s operations and muzzled internal experts. The matter is now the subject of a congressional inquiry. Yet Reuters has found new evidence that the CDC’s response to the pandemic also was marred by actions – or inaction – by the agency’s career scientists and frontline staff.

At a crucial moment in the pandemic when Americans were quarantined after possible exposure to the virus abroad, the agency declined or resisted potentially valuable opportunities to study whether the disease could be spread by those without symptoms, according to previously undisclosed internal emails, other documents and interviews with key players.

Soon after balking at testing the returnees from Wuhan, the agency delayed testing asymptomatic passengers among 318 evacuees from the Diamond Princess, a contaminated cruise ship in Japan. In addition, the agency failed at that time to make effective use of outside experts and appeared at times unprepared for the crisis on the ground, lacking adequate personal protective gear and ignoring established protocols, Reuters found.