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Burnout and fatigue hobble CDC’s pandemic response

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Staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are increasingly reluctant to join the agency’s pandemic response team, citing debilitating burnout and fatigue after 19 months of fighting Covid-19.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is trying to build up the response team after paring it down last spring as part of a broader agency reorganization amid optimism the pandemic would ebb. But with the rise of the Delta variant, and projections that cases and hospitalizations could begin to rise again this fall and winter, Walensky is again asking agency staff to help — a plea many are spurning.

POLITICO spoke with five CDC officials, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss internal agency matters more freely. While the CDC has played a central role in the U.S. fight against Covid-19 for nearly two years, sources said the last several months have been particularly difficult. They described an intense summer marked by demands to digest complex data in record time as the government raced to update policies on vaccines, masks and travel in the face of Delta.

Many of the epidemiologists, scientists and statisticians on the CDC’s Covid-19 response team — which collects and analyzes Covid-19 data, drafts scientific reports and coordinates agency policy recommendations — have been putting in 15-hour days since the pandemic began. Some of its dozens of members are also continuing to work on non-pandemic topics.

“It’s been really difficult for people and with Delta, it just felt like we were back at the start of things,” one CDC official said. “And not everyone wants to work on the pandemic response because they know how crazy things are and what long hours they would have to pull. So that means that........

© Politico

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