Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House April 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images
CDC Director Robert Redfield said Thursday that he’s “very concerned” the agency’s public health message on the coronavirus isn’t “resonating” with the public as the number of cases continues to rise across the U.S.
Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, Redfield said he sees “a lot of people” not wearing masks in Washington, D.C., where he works, while many people do wear masks in his hometown of Baltimore. Crowds of people have been seen in recent weeks at protests, over the Memorial Day holiday and, Redfield noted, at the SpaceX launch Saturday.
Huge crowds gathered at Florida’s space coast Wednesday to watch SpaceX’s first attempt at launching astronauts to space.
“We will continue to message as well we can,” he said. “We’re going to encourage people that have the ability to require to wear masks when they are in their environment to continue to do that.”
The coronavirus, which emerged about five months ago, has sickened more than 1.8 million people and killed at least 107,175 in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While cases have slowed in hot spots such as New York state, the U.S. is still seeing roughly 20,000 new Covid-19 cases a day.
Redfield is a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.
During the hearing, House Democrats grilled Redfield on Trump’s push for states to reopen after shutting down as part of social distancing measures meant to curb the spread of the virus.
When asked by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., if there was any evidence the virus was less contagious, Redfield simply said, “No.”
The hearing comes as the CDC’s response to the pandemic comes under scrutiny by former officials and infectious disease experts. A New York Times report published Wednesday detailed some of the CDC’s early missteps, including the delay of coronavirus test kits. The CDC declined The New York Times’ requests to interview top CDC officials, the Times said.
The CDC has remained largely quiet on the pandemic. Agency officials haven’t held a coronavirus-related briefing in more than two months. Last month, the agency quietly released detailed guidance for reopening schools, mass transit and nonessential businesses that had been shut down in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.