10.16.20

Murray Continues Pressing Trump Administration to Stop Political Meddling in COVID-19 Response Amid New Revelations

Senator Murray writes to VP Pence following latest reports of Trump Administration officials overruling and undermining CDC experts

 

Murray has introduced the STOP Act, legislation to provide accountability and transparency to address political interference in the COVID-19 response

 

Murray als0 recently launched the Save Our Science Political Interference Tracker, which catalogues reports of Trump Administration interference with scientists and experts leading the COVID-19 response

 

Murray: “This dangerous meddling in public health decision making is putting lives at risk.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 taskforce, calling for the Trump Administration to halt its political interference in the work of public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the letter, Senator Murray raised her concerns about the most recent reports of political meddling—including reports the Vice President overruled CDC experts to close the nation’s borders earlier this year and reports that CDC was blocked from requiring masks on public transportation recently—and emphasized the danger interference with the CDC’s work poses to public health and to the lives of people across the country.

 

“I write to express concern regarding recent reports of your Administration’s continued interference with the decision making of public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for political reasons. The Trump Administration’s repeated political interference, which has plagued our country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the very beginning, threatens to further undermine the public’s trust in our scientific agencies and public health systems. President Trump, you, and other senior Administration officials have repeatedly overruled our public health experts for political reasons, exacerbating one of the worst public health crises our country has ever faced. Since March, there have been at least thirty episodes of political interference. This dangerous meddling in public health decision making is putting lives at risk. I urge you and others in the White House and on the Coronavirus Task Force to stop this interference and heed the guidance of our nation’s public health experts.” wrote Senator Murray.

 

The letter to Vice President Pence is the latest in Senator Murray’s ongoing efforts to hold the Trump Administration accountable for its mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Earlier this week, Senator Murray introduced the Save Our Science (SOS) Political Interference Tracker, a website tracking reports of the Trump Administration interfering with the scientific work of public health agencies on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. She has also introduced the STOP Act, legislation to fight political interference in the pandemic response by establishing stronger oversight.  The STOP Act would create a task force of the Pandemic Response and Accountability Committee charged with conducting a thorough investigation into any political interference with decisions made by scientific agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services in connection with the pandemic response. These reports would be released to committees of jurisdiction and could be made public, and the task force would have full discretion to release any information that it deems is in the public interest and may be important to public safety.

 

See the full text of the letter below and a PDF HERE.

 

October 16, 2020

 

 

October 16, 2020

 

The Honorable Mike Pence
Vice President of the United States
The White House
Office of the Vice President
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

 

Dear Vice President Pence:

 

I write to express concern regarding recent reports of your Administration’s continued interference with the decision making of public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for political reasons. The Trump Administration’s repeated political interference, which has plagued our country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the very beginning, threatens to further undermine the public’s trust in our scientific agencies and public health systems. President Trump, you, and other senior Administration officials have repeatedly overruled our public health experts for political reasons, exacerbating one of the worst public health crises our country has ever faced. Since March, there have been at least thirty episodes of political interference. This dangerous meddling in public health decision making is putting lives at risk. I urge you and others in the White House and on the Coronavirus Task Force to stop this interference and heed the guidance of our nation’s public health experts.

 

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that you directed CDC officials to effectively close the southern and northern borders of the United States by inappropriately utilizing the agency’s emergency powers under Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act.[1] Public health experts did not believe these actions would result in meaningful reduction in COVID-19 transmission and stated that the decision was not evidence-based nor grounded in science. Despite this scientific consensus, you urged CDC Director Redfield to issue this order. As a direct result of your order, it is estimated that almost 150,000 people have been expelled from the United States since March, including 8,800 unaccompanied minors.

 

In a separate incident, the New York Times recently reported that the White House blocked proposed CDC guidance that would have required face coverings in transportation hubs and on public and commercial transportation, including buses, trains, airplanes, and subways.[2] According to Dr. Redfield himself, “cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus.” Rather than issue this sensible, science-based guidance, however, the Trump Administration shelved it, putting people across the country at greater risk of transmitting or contracting COVID-19 and likely costing lives.[3] This misguided censorship of science impedes our response to the pandemic, and, when considered along with the numerous other instances of political interference in this pandemic and attempts to circumvent and sideline public health experts, represents a dereliction of duty to protect public health.

 

These concerns are further underscored by the recent ProPublica article detailing numerous instances of political interference in the work of the CDC since the start of the pandemic.[4] The public must have trust in our public health experts and agencies in order to effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to preserve public trust, you must allow our public health officials to work independently and to take evidence-based actions without political interference. To that end, we ask that the White House and all Trump Administration officials respect these experts and cease politically interfering with their work immediately.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 



[1] https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-pandemics-public-health-new-york-health-4ef0c6c5263815a26f8aa17f6ea490ae

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/09/health/coronavirus-covid-masks-cdc.html

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0714-americans-to-wear-masks.html

[4] https://www.propublica.org/article/inside-the-fall-of-the-cdc