Top Emory doctor calls for CDC to step into 'pandemic leadership void'

With coronavirus infectious rising in 46 states, and some hospitals in the Western US reportedly reaching capacity, health officials are warning the US could be in for an incredibly difficult winter.

The number of newly reported cases in a single day topped 160,000 on Thursday. 

Emory infectious disease expert Dr. Carlos del Rio says the country is facing a critical juncture, at a time, he says, there is a void in pandemic leadership.

"There is nobody at any high level really talking about this, providing any guidance, saying what to do," Dr. del Rio told reporters.

Del Rio is urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take a more active role in leading the country's pandemic response, making its scientists available to the media and giving the public information on how to lower the risk of transmission of the virus.

"The CDC is the best agency to take charge at this point in time, and to begin communicating in a clear way about where we are and what needs to be done," Dr. del Rio says.

In past health crises, like the H1N1 flu and the Ebola outbreaks, CDC scientists held frequent, sometimes daily, media briefings, explaining what they were learning and why their public health advice was evolving. 

Yet, for the past 9 months, the Atlanta-based health agency has been largely silent, giving few media briefings and posting its guidance online without explaining the science behind their recommendations.

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Del Rio says this is a chance for the agency to "regain" its leadership role and standing.

"I would call on CDC leadership to get their experts out there, to get them into the media and have frequent press briefings, and to get them to explain what they're doing," he says.

He pointed out a "very good" recent guideline on the agency's website that said wearing a mask not only protects others from infection but may protect the mask wearer, too.

"Well, we need somebody out there explaining, what is the science behind it, what got us to that conclusion," del Rio says. "Communicating the message to the people on a regular basis through the media, I think, is a critical thing CDC has to do right now."

FOX 5 requested a response from the CDC Friday morning, but the agency did not reply by airtime.

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