Months of mixed messages, political pressure and public gaffes about COVID-19 have caused morale at the Centers for Disease Control to turn "toxic," say four current and two former CDC staffers, with one saying the election could be a "tipping point" for a mass exodus if President Donald Trump wins.
"The house is not only on fire," a veteran CDC staffer who did not want to be named for fear of retribution told NBC News. "We're standing in ashes."
Current and former CDC employees tell NBC News that career staffers are still struggling to influence key decisions on the pandemic as new daily COVID cases soar nationwide, but are overruled by Trump appointees when politics intrudes.
Most recently, they said, they wanted to extend the "No Sail" order for cruise ships through February. It had been set to expire four days before the Nov. 3 election. Instead, they say Vice President Pence's office pushed for the order to expire, which stands to benefit 21,000 cruise industry workers in the swing state of Florida.
A White House official told NBC News that when the CDC proposed an extension to the "no sail" order it seemed "arbitrary" and "they provided no metrics or data as to why."
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