CDC director stops in Hawaiʻi to meet with medical community, state officials
University of Hawaiʻi medical students and faculty got a front-row seat Monday with Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They wanted to know about the politics that played out during the coronavirus pandemic.
"At a time where we had a pandemic that affected every one of 330 million Americans and included the global population, we as an agency had to pivot. We had to be more nimble, as you said. We had to engage about 25% of the agency at any given time in the public health emergency," she said.
Walensky underscored that it was the first time the agency dealt with a pandemic in its 76-year history.
"I think a lot of our communication — one of the challenges is we kept saying we are going to lead with the science. And we forgot the second part of that phrase, which was, 'and that will change,'" she said.
Science changes by nature as researchers learn more, she said.
"Not only were we learning more, but the virus was evolving in front of us. And so I think we really missed an opportunity to be able to say, 'This is what we should do for now, and check back and continue to check back because things may change," Walensky told The Conversation.
The CDC announced that it has set aside $14 million for Hawaiʻi to strengthen public health infrastructure and help underserved communities.
"When COVID started, it started on the back of a very frail public health infrastructure across the country. And that infrastructure is some of what these resources are going to bolster," Walensky said.
Walensky also met with Gov. Josh Green and Health Department officials while on Oʻahu. She was returning from Asia where the CDC has offices in Thailand and Vietnam.
This interview aired on The Conversation on March 21, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.