• New CDC guidelines that appeared on the agency’s website just a few days ago, which refined the agency’s guidance around how the coronavirus spreads, were abruptly pulled from the agency’s site on Monday.
  • The CDC said it was due to the new coronavirus guidance being posted as a draft in error.
  • Critics immediately pounced, arguing that this was but the latest instance of perceived political influence hampering the CDC’s communications around the coronavirus.

Just a few days ago, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield insisted to US senators that his agency is putting out reliable, scientifically accurate data and guidance about the novel coronavirus that’s free of any political bent one way or the other. That the agency’s “scientific integrity … has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch.”

It’s a promise that’s looking increasingly dubious, however, with each passing day. On Monday, Redfield’s agency itself seemed to undercut the director’s assurance, when it yanked new CDC guidelines about the COVID-19 virus that had appeared on the agency website just a few days ago. That new guidance had brought the CDC more in line with scientists who are increasingly sounding an alarm about the airborne spread of the virus and who also warn that the deadly pathogen can spread beyond the 6 feet we’ve all been using as a guideline for social distancing purposes. 

And then, all of a sudden around mid-day on Monday, all of that new guidance was pulled from the CDC website. The agency, in other words, seemed to abruptly revert back to its previous guidance, regarding the virus being transmitted mainly through close-contact interactions between people.

“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,” CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said in an email to CNN. “CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted.”

No surprise, the agency quickly found itself getting crucified online over the about-face by pretty much the entirety of the political spectrum.

To be sure, this is far from the only recent instance where the agency has found itself under fire for the perception that political pressure has too much influence over its work. Just last week, for example, it was reported that a Health and Human Services Department political appointee named Michael Caputo was trying to wrest control away from the CDC over its weekly scientific report. Caputo also made headlines in recent days for an ominous warning that some sort of “resistance unit” is working within the CDC to undermine the Trump administration and its pronouncements about the coronavirus.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state said in recent days that it’s regrettable to see public trust in agencies like the CDC damaged by political pressure.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.