'Meetups with Mandy': CDC launches publicity campaign to regain public trust

Apparently, all it takes is a P.R. campaign, and the public will once again trust the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), whose politicized behavior during the COVID pandemic was one trust-busting scandal after another.

That's what we're hearing from Mandy Cohen, the new CDC director, who's taking a taxpayer-funded trip through America to hold "Meetup with Mandy" sessions, presumably with the public.

According to Politico:

The new CDC director spent her first two months on the job telling audiences in New York, Wisconsin and Washington state the agency has made mistakes, a mea culpa of sorts meant to show that she understands past shortcomings.

"Trust is easily broken and, as folks know, trust takes time to rebuild," Cohen told POLITICO. "It isn't something you can fix overnight. I know that this is a long-term way of thinking about it."

Her trust tour, which has several more stops in the works, comes as the Biden administration begins its latest Covid-19 vaccine push and at a time when her agency faces scrutiny over its decisions and messaging during the pandemic. She is contending with a public that has, for the most part, moved beyond Covid and growing vaccine skepticism fueled by some presidential candidates and public health officials.

 She, umm, doesn't seem to be visiting red states, where distrust is the highest.

As for the "mistakes," she calls those errors of transparency and promises more transparency.  Sigh.  If that's the only "error" she can name, she's in a world of trouble on the trust-rebuilding front.

That includes revamping the agency website to be more consumer friendly, said CDC communications director Kevin Griffis.

"She knows, as a leading health authority, that the public, at times, had their trust challenged," Paula Tran, a Wisconsin state health official who met with Cohen this summer, told POLITICO.

There's a new curriculum for CDC scientists that explains how to use clear language, Griffis said, and Cohen regularly meets with CDC employees to talk through concerns and changes in "Meetups with Mandy."

Cohen led the North Carolina health department during the height of the pandemic and said that leveling with people about what she knew — and didn't know — helped build trust, a lesson she said she is bringing to the CDC.

She pointed to how the agency discussed the emerging variant BA.2.86, which has gotten weekly scientific updates, and often describes what the agency still doesn't know about the variant as evidence of this work.

"We are already starting a path [of better scientific communication]," Cohen said.

Actually, the problem is not transparency — one can get perfectly useful information on the CDC site about malaria and other infectious diseases, as I did in my January piece on the death of George Neumayr.

The problem is conflicts of interest. 

What can she say about the revolving door of interests that move between Big Pharma to the CDC, meaning that anyone who opposes Big Pharma is not going to get one of these big-dollar positions?  Is she eyeing a Big Pharma board spot herself after her tenure at CDC is up?  Maybe she can be transparent on that.  Because let's face it: the CDC was calling for a national vaccine mandate, despite the individual wishes and requirements of different Americans.  That certainly made vaccine manufacturers in Big Pharma happy.  The CDC was also big on masks for kids, which certainly benefited mask manufacturers, even as it harmed kids.

Another conflict of interest is whom the CDC takes its marching orders from.  Since she's all in for transparency, she claims, will she be opening up CDC emails with the teachers' union officials her agency has been taking its orders on extended lockdowns from?

Something says "no."  We will have to wait for the FOIA revelations from some enterprising news agency.

Yet another conflict of interest has been in the CDC's demonization of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as triage treatments for those who have COVID.  The treatments obviously work, but they are old medicines and of no profit value to Big Pharma, which had some bush-league treatments of its own that it wanted to market instead.  Anyone promoting or taking that medicine was raked over the coals, empirical evidence be damned.  Talk about conflict of interest on that front, too.

Another problem of trust in the CDC is spying.  Back in March, I wrote about this: "So the CDC got hold of our phone data to spy on our whereabouts during COVID lockdowns?"

Spying is not the way to regain public trust, Mandy.  Have you done something about the CDC's Big Brother spying?

Still another problem is politicization.  The CDC made one nakedly political disease warning after another, all based on Joe Biden's political interests.

Back in the spring of 2020, the CDC denounced bar-hopping and spring-breaking of young people (read: in Florida, which is the spring break capital of the universe) while specifically stating that rioters and looters from the Black Lives Matter groups out mobbing and burning things would not spread COVID.  Everyone could see the double-standard in that one.  And this was supposedly a matter of public health.  They didn't care about public health.  They wanted to punish Ron DeSantis's Florida and give BLM looters a pass on political grounds.

Another group that got a pass, same as the rioters, were the illegals pouring over our border.  They're bringing tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, scabies, and other maladies over with them, but they wouldn't dream of spreading COVID, according to the CDC.  Maybe that had something to do with Joe Biden's open border priority.

Somehow, a public relations campaign doesn't cut it on the issue of rebuilding trust with the public.  This is an agency that has violated the public trust, and on so many levels, it needs to be broken up and abolished.  A public relations "listening tour" is just plain insulting. 

There is a way to regain public trust, but based on what we see of Cohen, we know she won't follow it: apologize directly for the lying, ban conflicts of interest, and resist all politicization from outside forces.  Better still, fire miscreants, who had to have known better.  That's how you rebuild public trust.

The CDC director thinks that all that's needed is a little public massaging.  To heck with that.  She's not interested in rebuilding public trust; she's about Big Pharma's interests and more politics.

Image: Official portrait, public domain.

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