Much of the CDC Is Working Remotely. That Could Make Changing the Agency Difficult.

by | Dec 5, 2022 | Health

ATLANTA — Earlier this year, top leadership at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began a monumental task: turning the sprawling, labyrinthine organization known for its highly specialized, academically focused scientific research into a sleek, flexible public health response agency primed to serve the American public. It’s an attempt to keep the CDC from repeating the mistakes it made while responding to covid-19.

But agency veterans, outside public health officials, and workplace organization experts said the current workplace structure could be a major barrier to that goal. Like directors before her, agency head Dr. Rochelle Walensky spends a considerable amount of time away from the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta. The agency has also embraced a workplace flexibility program that has allowed most of its scientists to stay remote.

As of October, 10,020 of the CDC’s 12,892 full-time employees — 78% of the full-time workforce — were allowed to work remotely all or part of the time, according to data that KHN obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Experts said the lack of face-to-face work will likely be a substantial obstacle to the top leadership’s effort to overhaul the agency after its failures during the pandemic — a botched testing rollout, confusing safety guidance, the slow release of scientific research, and a loss of public trust.

They also wondered whether Walensky, who frequently works remotely while traveling, can …

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