CDC reassigns official who drew spotlight for pandemic warning

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Messonnier, a prominent respiratory disease scientist who has been at CDC for more than two decades, led the CDC’s early planning for the nationwide distribution of coronavirus vaccines. She also angered top Trump administration officials early in the pandemic after warning that its impacts could be “severe.”

Messonnier remains the top respiratory disease official at the CDC. She is still employed by the agency, a spokesperson said.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” she said on Feb. 25, 2020, triggering a stock market dip as fears of a pandemic grew.

Messonnier clashed with the Trump administration over those comments, leading the administration to halt her regular press briefings and her appearances with the White House’s coronavirus task force. Former President Donald Trump threatened to fire her and publicly dismissed her dire projections.

Messonnier’s long public silence was supposed to end when President Joe Biden assumed office and strove to put more scientists at the forefront of the pandemic response. But she also had differences with Biden officials, according to a person familiar with the discussion.



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