Lloyd Billingsley, What did the government’s first pandemic mouthpiece know, and when did she know it?
“Dr. Messonnier has been a true hero. And through her career, in terms of public health, she’s been a steward of public health for the nation. Over this pandemic and through a many-decade career, she’s made significant contributions, and she leaves behind a strong, strong force of leadership and courage in all that she’s done.”
That was Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Rachel Walensky in a May 7 White House briefing. David Lim of Politico wanted to know why Dr. Nancy Messonnier, longtime director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), had been reassigned in April, “and why is she now leaving the CDC?” Lim got no answer, and Walensky quickly moved on. That invites a review of what this “true hero” managed to accomplish “over this pandemic.”
In a CDC telebriefing on January 17, 2020, Dr. Messonnier mentioned “the outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, China, which has been identified as being caused by a novel coronavirus.” It was “a serious situation,” and she cautioned about travel to and from Wuhan. In a January 24 briefing, Dr. Messonnier said “we expect to find more cases of novel coronavirus in the United States associated with the ongoing and expanding outbreak in Wuhan, China.”
Sarah Owermohle of Politico wanted to know “what kind of dialogue are you guys are having with Chinese health authorities, and “if there is any inkling” of where the novel virus is coming from.
“CDC has a team that’s been in China for many years where we work closely with the Department of Health in China,” said Dr. Messonnier. “I think we should be clear to compliment the Chinese on the early recognition of the respiratory outbreak center in the Wuhan market, and how rapidly they were able to identify it as a novel coronavirus.”
In her January 29, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Dr. Messonnier confirmed that the CDC would be part of a “WHO mission” in China. In a January 30, telebriefing, Dr. Messonnier referred to “this new virus” without revealing how it differed from others.
In her February 3, 2020 telebriefing, Dr. Messonnier mentioned five additional infections from the “novel coronavirus,” four with travel history to Wuhan. On February 5, reporters asked about individuals returning from Wuhan. Dr. Messonnier said that was “not something that I’m at liberty to talk about today.” None of the reporters asked which official was laying down the rules for Dr. Messonnier.
In her February 12, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Dr. Messonnier warned, “We should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the U.S.,” and “at some point, we are likely to see community spread in the U.S.”
In her February 25, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Dr. Messonnier told reporters, “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.” That drew a question from Craig Fiegener of KNX Radio in Los Angeles.
“Is the Chinese government leveling with you? Are they telling you the truth? Have they given you the straight dope, so to speak, as to what you need to know about the coronavirus?”
“In terms of the Chinese government,” Dr. Messonnier responded, “there has been a WHO team on the ground in China as well in Wuhan. There are data coming out from those efforts. We have a lot of information from China.” Dr. Messonnier did not give the reporters any of the information “from China.”
In a March 9, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Dr. Messonnier said, “There is risk of being exposed and getting sick from this virus and there is risk of getting very sick or dying from illness with this virus. This virus is capable of spreading easily and sustainably from person to person based on the available data. The report of the World Health Organization mission to China describes the virus as being highly contagious. And there’s essentially no immunity against this virus in the population because it’s a new virus.”
Tom Howell of the Washington Times asked about the link between travelers from China and coronavirus cases in Washington State. “I think that’s an interesting hypothesis,” Messonnier said. There were “alternate explanations of the same findings,” but Dr. Messonnier did not elaborate.
In her briefings, Dr. Messonnier had identified the “Wuhan market,” as the source of the deadly “new virus,” for which there was no immunity. Messonnier praised China and hailed CDC cooperation with the WHO, which had done the same. At no point did Dr. Messonnier deviate from the PRC-WHO line, and she was evasive about China’s role. So was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who took over as the government’s main pandemic mouthpiece.
Last November, Joe Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board called for Dr. Messonnier, to take a central role in briefings on the pandemic as a way to elevate science and restore public trust in the CDC. That never happened, and after her reassignment, Messonnier resigned. She now serves as the Executive Director for Pandemic Prevention and Health Systems with the Skoll Foundation. Messonnier leaves behind may questions about the pandemic the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to prevent and proved ill-equipped to manage.
What did Dr. Messonnier know, and when did she know it? Who told her she was “not at liberty” to answer questions about Wuhan? What did she know about the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the dangerous gain-of-function research that went on there, funded by the National Institutes of Health?
In 1995, Dr. Messonnier began her career as an officer of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, tasked with preventing dangerous viruses from arriving on American soil. What was the EIS role with the “new virus” from Wuhan? The people, who have suffered so much, have a right to know.