Apparently the 2023 Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference that was hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from April 24 to 27 in its hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 2,000 in attendance, has turned into a COVID superspreader event. The four-day event held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, free and open to the public, was billed as a showcase for “recent groundbreaking investigations and innovative analyses conducted by EIS officers [during the COVID pandemic].” 

Begrudgingly, the CDC reported to the Georgia Department of Health, which has jurisdiction over the state, including the premises where the conference was held, that at least 35 cases of coronavirus infections among attendees had been documented so far. Given the lack of systematic monitoring and the brief time that has passed since the event, this figure must represent only a minute fraction of those infected. 

The cover of the EIS 2023 program. [Photo: CDC]

The very same CDC intelligence officers whose work was being highlighted at the conference, known colloquially as “disease detectives,” have initiated an internal investigation into the outbreak.

According to the attendees, many, presumably a significant majority, were not masking or maintaining social distance nor adhering to any of the precautions that the CDC had previously recommended. Given that infections with coronavirus can result in severe health issues if not death, the result is worse than hypocritical or embarrassing. It is tantamount to ineptitude and professional negligence on the part of the CDC for the well-being of the attendees and the public.  

And it raises a further question: If the top officials of the CDC are so casual and indifferent to the health of their own employees and close associates, what is their real attitude to the health and well-being of the American people as a whole?

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On word of infections among attendees just a few days prior to the official announcement of the outbreak, CDC public affairs specialist, Kristen Nordlund, had contemptuously dismissed the suggestion of a superspreader event when she told the Washington Post, “These cases are reflective of general spread in the community. It’s not news that public health employees can get COVID-19.”

Taking on a more cautious tone on Tuesday, Nordlund in an email to the Post, wrote, “The CDC is working with the Georgia Department of Health to conduct a rapid epidemiologic assessment of confirmed COVID-19 cases that appear to be connected to the 2023 EIS Conference to determine transmission patterns.” 

Speaking with The Hill, she downplayed the event and covered for the agency, noting, “Whenever there are large gatherings, especially indoors, such as at a conference, there is the possibility of COVID-19 spread, even in periods of low community spread.” 

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