Eight in 10 CDC employees STILL work from home as former staff member warns it’s ‘almost impossible to get anything done’ with no one in the office
- Eight in 10 GGD employees are working from home, according to a FOIA request
- Experts fear that this will prevent the organization from learning faults
- It comes after the agency revealed it would lay off 3,000 people hired to fight Covid
Most Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) employees are still working from home.
The federal health service, responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, said 80 percent of its workforce was still working partially or fully from home.
Dr. Stephen Cochi, who worked at the CDC for four decades before retiring this year, warned that remote work makes it “almost impossible to get anything done.”
It comes as the agency is firing 3,000 scientists, communications experts and nurses who were recruited to help fight Covid.
The CDC bucks the trend and continues to allow most of its employees to work from home
When Covid hit, the CDC signaled all Americans who had non-essential work to start working from home on March 18, 2020.
Since then, it has not released any updated guidelines telling people to return to the office.
In August this year, the agency shortened the quarantine period for Covid patients from 10 to five days, arguing that this would boost office efficiency. Four months later, it has yet to reverse its own telecommuting plans.
Public health cleanup at the CDC
More than 3,000 scientists and public health experts hired to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pandemic response are being laid off.
Their contracts are due to expire in the US in the coming weeks and will not be renewed, as part of the country’s Covid spending winding down.
The CDC Foundation — an independent body that supports the work of the CDC — recruited 4,000 epidemiologists, communications experts and public health nurses during the pandemic.
But only 800 will keep their jobs if hired by local health departments, as the foundation has spent nearly all of its $289 million budget on Covid relief.
In response to a FOIA request filed by Kaiser health newsthe CDC said 10,020 of the 12,892 workers were still allowed to do “hybrid” or “fully remote” work.
About 6,237 – or half of the workforce – were allowed to work entirely remotely.
The CDC has refused to drop its work-from-home policy, even as the threat from the virus has subsided.
Employee guidance published by the agency in April says telecommuting has given employees “flexibility.”
It adds that the move has also allowed them to hire staff outside of its Atlanta, Georgia headquarters.
The agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has also previously championed remote working.
She said in September, “The people at the CDC work well, they work hard, and they don’t necessarily have to be on the ground in Atlanta.
“In fact, they are often more productive off-site.”
She made the remarks in response to a question from Louisiana’s GOP Senator Bill Cassidy, who asked in September how she expected to set an example if she was never in the office.
Dr. Walensky “divides her time” between Atlanta, Washington DC, local health departments and the 60 other countries where the CDC operates.
Dr. Cochi told KHN that the agency used to be streamlined and able to respond quickly to crises, but complained that it is now bogged down by an external workforce and a whipping bureaucracy.
“I’d like to see every effort made to try and restore that culture as much as possible because CDC may lose some of its excellence if it can’t,” he said.
Dr. Pamela Hinds, a management scientist at Stanford University, added, “One of the things a really strong new leader would do is they would be visible, they would walk the halls, they would have the door open.
“That’s much harder to achieve when there’s no one there.”
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is now reportedly largely back in office.
But other government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would still allow many employees to work remotely. It only unveiled a hybrid back-to-office policy last month.
A CDC spokesperson said, “The role of CDC director has historically involved a significant amount of official travel around the world; demand that the director is mobile and can work anywhere.’
They reiterated that the director works between the agency’s headquarters, the nation’s capital, and other locations in the US and abroad.