What's the CDC and why should we trust them?
The CDC now stands for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's headquartered in Atlanta and it's America's national public health agency. It's a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services and focuses on threats to public health including infectious diseases, occupational risks, food-borne illness, injuries, and other factors that may make Americans less healthy.
When the CDC was founded in 1946, it actually stood for Communicable Disease Center and its sole mission was stopping an epidemic of malaria. That's why its headquarters are in Atlanta - at the time, malaria was endemic in southern states and had been a major issue during World War II, since many military camps were in the South. The bulk of the CDC's early efforts were directed at mosquito abatement. However, the need for an agency responsible for epidemiology became increasingly clear and through the remainder of the 40's, 50's, and 60's the CDC became responsible for monitoring and fighting a wide range of diseases as the Epidemic Intelligence Service, Veterinary Diseases Division, Venereal Disease Division, and Tuberculosis Control were all founded or transferred from other parts of the government.
What does the CDC do now?
Since then the CDC has been instrumental in tracking, studying, and fighting emerging diseases, including HIV, West Nile, Ebola, Zika, Legionnaires’ disease, swine flu, and of course Covid-19. It operates some of the only Biosafety Level 4 laboratories in the world and safely handle bacteria and viruses too dangerous for other labs. It also operates the National Center for Health Statistics, which provides many of the statistics scientists use to study things like life expectancy, birth weights, hospital effectiveness, diet and weight, and other major factors that allow us to know how healthy Americans are.
Is the CDC political?
No. The people who make health recommendations at the CDC are doctors, scientists, and public health experts. The CDC is a nonpartisan, non-political agency. They are the nation’s leading science-based, data-driven, service organization focused entirely on protecting public health.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Our History, Our Story." https://www.cdc.gov/about/history/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC Timeline - 1940's-1970's." https://www.cdc.gov/museum/timeline/1940-1970.html
Parascandola, John. “From MCWA to CDC: Origins of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Public Health Reports (1974-) 111, no. 6 (1996): 549–51. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4598075.