A ‘Much Better and More Trusted’ CDC?

“The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency marks a tremendous transition for our country, for public health, and in my tenure as CDC Director,” proclaimed Dr. Rochelle Walensky last week. The CDC boss is stepping down from the job, which she took “with the goal of leaving behind the dark days of the pandemic and moving CDC—and public health—forward into a much better and more trusted place.”

Before they place more trust in an allegedly better CDC, embattled Americans might review events that took place on Walensky’s watch, including the sudden departure of a key CDC figure. 

In April 2021, the CDC reassigned Dr. Nancy Messonnier, longtime director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). In a May 7, 2021, White House briefing, Walensky suddenly announced that Messonnier would be stepping down. 

“Dr. Messonnier has been a true hero,” Walensky told reporters. “And through her career, in terms of public health, she’s been a steward of public health for the nation. Over this pandemic and through a many-decade career, she’s made significant contributions, and she leaves behind a strong, strong force of leadership and courage in all that she’s done.”

Walensky did not explain why, exactly, Messonnier was leaving the CDC and did not detail any of the “significant contributions” the NCIRD director had made. That invites a review of what the “true hero” Messonnier managed to accomplish in those “dark days of the pandemic.”

In November 2020, Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board called for Messonnier to take a central role in briefings on the pandemic as a way to elevate science and restore public trust in the Centers for Disease Control. The chosen messenger got right to it. 

In a CDC telebriefing on January 17, 2020, Messonnier mentioned “the outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, China, which has been identified as being caused by a novel coronavirus.” It was “a serious situation,” and the CDC official cautioned about travel to and from Wuhan. 

In a January 24 briefing, Messonnier said “we expect to find more cases of novel coronavirus in the United States associated with the ongoing and expanding outbreak in Wuhan, China.”  Sarah Owermohle of Politico wanted to know “what kind of dialogue are you guys are having with Chinese health authorities, and “if there is any inkling” of the origin of the novel virus.

“CDC has a team that’s been in China for many years where we work closely with the Department of Health in China,” said Messonnier. “I think we should be clear to compliment the Chinese on the early recognition of the respiratory outbreak center in the Wuhan market, and how rapidly they were able to identify it as a novel coronavirus.”

In her January 29, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Messonnier confirmed that the CDC would be part of a “WHO mission” in China. In a January 30, telebriefing, Messonnier referred to “this new virus” without revealing how it differed from others. 

In her February 3, 2020 telebriefing, Messonnier mentioned five additional infections from the “novel coronavirus,” four with a travel history to Wuhan.  On February 5, reporters asked about individuals returning from Wuhan. Messonnier said that was “not something that I’m at liberty to talk about today.” None of the reporters asked which official was laying down the rules for Messonnier.

In her February 12, 2020, CDC telebriefing, Messonnier warned,  “We should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the U.S.,” and “at some point, we are likely to see community spread in the U.S.”

In her February 25, 2020, CDC telebriefing, Messonnier told reporters, “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.” 

That drew a question from Craig Fiegener of KNX Radio in Los Angeles: “Is the Chinese government leveling with you? Are they telling you the truth?  Have they given you the straight dope, so to speak, as to what you need to know about the coronavirus?”

“In terms of the Chinese government,” Messonnier responded, “there has been a WHO team on the ground in China as well in Wuhan.  There are data coming out from those efforts.  We have a lot of information from China.” Messonnier did not give the reporters any of the information “from China.”

In a March 9, 2020, CDC telebriefing, Messonnier said: “There is risk of being exposed and getting sick from this virus and there is risk of getting very sick or dying from illness with this virus. This virus is capable of spreading easily and sustainably from person to person based on the available data. The report of the World Health Organization mission to China describes the virus as being highly contagious. And there’s essentially no immunity against this virus in the population because it’s a new virus.”

Tom Howell of the Washington Times asked about the link between travelers from China and coronavirus cases in Washington State. “I think that’s an interesting hypothesis,” Messonnier said. There were “alternate explanations of the same findings,” but Messonnier did not elaborate.

In her briefings, Messonnier had identified the “Wuhan market,” as the source of the deadly “new virus,” for which there was no immunity. Messonnier praised China and was decidedly evasive about China’s role. How that qualifies Messonnier as a “true hero” is not exactly clear. 

As it happens, there was something else about Messonnier that Walensky wasn’t telling. In 1995, after completing her residency in internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Messonnier went straight into the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service.

According to the CDC, “EIS officers serve on the front lines of public health, protecting Americans and the global community.” When diseases and public health threats emerge, “EIS officers investigate, identify the cause, rapidly implement control measures, and collect evidence to recommend preventive actions.”

The EIS did not identify the cause of the COVID pandemic, did not protect Americans, and any rapidly implemented EIS control measures proved a complete failure. So embattled Americans have a right to wonder what these intrepid disease detectives are really about.

As the CDC explains, EIS alumni have gone on to become CDC directors, leading CDC scientists, acting surgeons general, and even World Health Organization assistant directors-general. On the other hand, as Peter Duesberg noted in Inventing the AIDS Virus, the EIS functions as a “medical CIA,” in bureaucracies and the media, without its influence being recognized.  

Did the longstanding CDC “team” in China include any EIS officers? Why did the EIS fail to stop the COVID virus from arriving in the United States, and spreading around the world? 

What, exactly, was the EIS role? Who was the official who told Messonnier she was “not at liberty” to talk about Wuhan? 

If the CDC is going to be a “much better and more trusted place,” the people need answers. 

They didn’t get them when “true hero” Messonnier suddenly departed to the Skoll Foundation. She now holds forth at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health

Walensky, who leaves at the end of June, said a laboratory origin for COVID was only one “possibility” and favored the “animal host” theory. When previous CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield found evidence of a laboratory origin, he got death threats. No word of any investigation by the FBI, which now favors the laboratory origin

The most likely laboratory is the Wuhan Institute of Virology, funded by Dr. Anthony Fauci to perform gain-of-function research which makes viruses more lethal and transmissible. So much to investigate, if Congress has the will. 

Get the news corporate media won't tell you.

Get caught up on today's must read stores!

By submitting your information, you agree to receive exclusive AG+ content, including special promotions, and agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms. By providing your phone number and checking the box to opt in, you are consenting to receive recurring SMS/MMS messages, including automated texts, to that number from my short code. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to end. SMS opt-in will not be sold, rented, or shared.

About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: CDC Director Robert Redfield whispers to National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Nancy Messonnier, January 28, 2020. Samuel Corum/Getty Images