Outgoing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said that leaving his post while the coronavirus ravages the country is “hard,” but he does “feel proud” of the work the agency did under his leadership, and defended the nation’s rocky start to vaccine distribution against recent criticism from the incoming Biden administration.
“It’s hard to leave at a time when the pandemic still hasn’t reached its peak and the worst days haven’t come,” Redfield told the New York Times. “It would have been more rewarding to leave when the pandemic is under control, but I do feel proud.”
Redfield, who took flak for his agency’s handling of the pandemic during the initial days of testing and the ever-changing guidance regarding masks and public health measures, also noted that formulating the public health response was hampered by decades of underfunding, and that his “greatest disappointment” was in the “lack of consistency of public health messaging and the inconsistency of civic leaders to reinforce the public health message.”
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“You can read between the lines what that means – ‘civic leaders,’” he told the news outlet, adding that the disparity between restrictions in differing states led to independent decisions. While some states shut down indoor dining and limited hours of operation for businesses, others never implemented mask mandates or closed down bars.
“So the reality is we are in for some very difficult times,” he said. “And I think I would have loved to have been proved wrong. I still believe the worst is yet to come.”
As for vaccine distribution, which many states continue to struggle with, Redfield said he is “glad” the administration gave Biden’s team “a foundation to build on” as they aim to vaccinate 100 million people during his first 100 days in office.
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“I encourage the president-elect to focus on his pledge to get 100 million people vaccinated in 100 days,” Redfield told the outlet. “I’m glad we gave him a foundation to build on. Last week, we had two days when we vaccinated one million people a day. We laid a foundation for vaccine administration. I find it unfortunate when some people suggest that the vaccine program one million a day is somehow a disaster – but it will be a model when the Biden administration does it.”
Redfield said that while he is not trying to criticize the Biden administration, he would “rather they would be thankful” than say “they inherited a mess.”