Opinion: CDC essential to controlling COVID-19, rebuilding economy

Emory University Hospital. (Jenni Girtman for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Emory University Hospital. (Jenni Girtman for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The simultaneous health and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on Americans is tragic. There is debate over a perceived trade-off between health and restarting our economy. We believe that it is not a trade-off, but that lasting economic recovery is intricately dependent on controlling COVID-19.

Science should systematically guide decisions at all levels. Interventions specific to level of risk can minimize transmission. Such interventions should be grounded in rigorous data (e.g., local distribution of cases and contacts, transmission rates, hospitalizations, and deaths), and supported by robust testing and effective contact tracing. If we get this right, the economy can safely recover long before a vaccine becomes available.

For the past 70 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been our nation’s strongest bulwark against public health threats. Its skillsets, expertise, and scientific credibility are unmatched in any other domestic or global institution. An unfettered and enabled CDC is fully capable of leading and guiding our nation’s evidence-based response to public health emergencies. If we are to win the battle against COVID-19, we need the CDC’s scientific independence and unstifled voice.

We call on our state and nationwide industry, academic, and government leaders to take urgent action to ensure that the CDC, based here in Georgia, regains its leading position in these times.


The Members of the National Academy of Medicine from Emory University.

The signatories of this letter are: Drs. K.M. Venkat Narayan, William H. Foege, Jeffrey P. Koplan, Claire E. Sterk, James W. Curran, Deborah W. Bruner, Linda A. McCauley, Carlos del Rio, Ruth L. Berkelman, Robert F. Breiman, Walter A. Orenstein, James M. Hughes, Mahlon DeLong, Max D. Cooper, Raymond J. Dingledine, Allan I. Levey, Michael M.E. Johns, Reynaldo Martorell, Godfrey P. Oakley, Mark L. Rosenberg and Stephen T. Warren.

Claire Sterk is president of Emory University, William Foege and Jeffrey Koplan are former directors of CDC, and James Curran is dean of Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is one of three academies that make up the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). Operating under the 1863 Congressional charter, the National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that work outside of government to provide objective advice on matters of science, technology, and health.