U.S. Secretary of State for Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press conference on November 19, 2020 at the White House in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of Health Alex Azar praised the insight of a senior official at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who had been clogged for months due to the raging coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who heads the CDC’s respiratory disease division and has been a regular, trustworthy voice for reporters covering the center for years, disappeared from the public eye after warning of the possible spread of the coronavirus in February.
Sources have told CNN and others that their frank and truthful statements upset President Donald Trump.
However, in his remarks on Thursday about the pandemic to the Conservative Heritage Foundation, Azar claimed he valued Messonnier’s advice and knowledge, saying it showed that HHS followed the science of what the American public was saying about the virus.
Azar also stated that he followed the advice of CDC chief Dr. Robert Redfield, who continued to appear in public, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, followed. He also claimed the advice of Dr. Appreciate Anne Schuchat of the CDC, another civil servant who had disappeared from the public for months.
“As the virus spread around the world and started gaining a foothold here in the US, we and the American people knew what we knew as soon as we did,” Azar said. “There was no immediate threat to the American public in January and February. But, as Dr Messonnier said on January 31, we quoted ourselves as if this was the next pandemic, but hopefully it still isn’t and it won’t be the case. ‘”
At the time, Azar announced to the public that the coronavirus, which has now killed more than 388,000 Americans, does not pose a serious threat.
On Thursday, Azar praised Messonnier for the warnings he did not give.
“We can remember that on February 25th in the daily CDC telebriefing. Dr. Nancy Messonnier noted that community containment is in our future and would include steps like closing schools, ”Azar said. “The stock exchange has certainly taken note of it. This was exactly what the task force set out on February 21, but it was a little ahead of the president’s briefing and the official announcement. But she and we were right. “