CDC chief to Congress: We need more authority, COVID-19 funding

In addition to more funding, the CDC needs Congress to grant it more authority to improve COVID-19 data reporting and accelerate its response to public health crises, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, told Roll Call in a Dec. 8 report. 

Some health officials anticipate the COVID-19 public health emergency to wind down in the spring, with the latest extension covering a 90-day period after Jan. 11, 2023. Once pandemic-era policies that the PHE enabled are fully rolled back, Dr. Walensky said the CDC will not have authority to continue requesting COVID-19 surveillance data from states and providers, unless the agency receives congressional approval to do so.

In a year, she predicts the agency may no longer be able to update COVID-19 community levels.

"If we don't get surveillance data, testing data, at the pace that we have been getting it, at the transparency that we've been getting, we may not be able to report on those sorts of things," Dr. Walensky said.

Disruptions in data flow could also hinder long COVID-19 studies, she said, adding that many lawmakers are unaware that the CDC cannot simply collect data on command. 

"People have no idea we didn't have the authorities," she said. 

CDC officials also say it's becoming more difficult to find ways to reshuffle limited pandemic funds. Congress has blocked several requests for additional pandemic funding this year, which led to the White House pausing a federal program that sent free COVID-19 test kits to people's homes.

"Not all of it is really re-allocatable," Dr. Walensky said. "We're constrained in a lot of ways in our ability to do that."

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