CDC head Robert Redfield has faced wrath online after urging protesters to be tested for Covid-19 and lamenting that his agency’s message is not getting through. He was reminded of the CDC’s own clumsy response to the crisis.

During a congressional hearing on the government’s handling of the pandemic on Thursday, Redfield told lawmakers he was “very concerned” that the CDC’s message on the virus is not “resonating” with the public.

He warned that crowded anti-police brutality demonstrations held in scores of cities over the last week could propel a spike in new cases.

“I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” Redfield said of the protests, calling on anyone who took part in marches or demonstrations to get tested for the coronavirus.

“The way to minimize that is to have each individual recognize it is an advantage to them to protect their loved ones, to [say] “hey, I was out, I need to go get tested.”

Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota – where the protests kicked off last week – echoed Redfield’s advice, calling on “anyone who demonstrated” to get tested, especially those showing symptoms.

While Redfield’s warning about mass gatherings may have been somewhat obvious, it did not go over well with critics, who observed that, despite a surge in screenings in the US, testing is still not available for many – thanks in part to the CDC’s delayed response in the early stages of the outbreak and its “botched” test kits.

Some took shots at the agency’s confusing advice on face coverings – initially saying they weren’t necessary, only to reverse course later – while others argued Redfield’s warning was too little, too late, and would have been more useful while the larger protests were still ongoing.

The press coverage of Redfield’s remarks was also lambasted, drawing comparisons to the media’s far less charitable “framing” of anti-lockdown protesters that have taken to the streets in a number of cities over the last few months.


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