“It’s been a terrible year for the CDC,” said Ross McKinney Jr., chief scientific officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. “There’s no question that their credibility and effectiveness have been damaged by a combination of external threats, leadership that has been perceived to be ineffective and mistakes they have made internally.”

Career staff members remain proud of the expertise, talent and professionalism that the agency can bring to bear in a crisis. But they see the agency’s situation clearly. One veteran researcher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, said Friday that morale is at an all-time low…

Inside the CDC, staffers acknowledge Redfield’s limitations as a leader but are fearful that, if he is ousted or quits, the White House will install someone of a more distinctly political or ideological bent — such as Scott Atlas, a Stanford University neuroradiologist and Trump pandemic adviser. Atlas, who has said pandemic fears are overblown, has become a Trump favorite and has publicly criticized Redfield in recent days. Atlas has no experience in infectious diseases but attends all meetings of the White House coronavirus task force.

Moving to replace Redfield with someone such as Atlas would further erode morale and probably lead to resignations, staffers say.