Former CDC chief calls for "consistent messaging" amid coronavirus pandemic

Former CDC head on coronavirus messaging
Former CDC head on coronavirus messaging 03:41

The White House's recent mandate telling hospital systems to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and report coronavirus information straight to the Department of Health and Human Services has been criticized by health care professionals and public officials who say it's a move against transparency for an administration that has struggled to contain the pandemic. 

The move comes as coronavirus cases skyrocket in the U.S. to over 3.6 million.

"They're changing horses in mid-stream, and they say it's going to be better," former CDC director Tom Frieden said on "CBS This Morning: Saturday." "Let's hold them to that and see if we have real-time information that's more accurate than we've been getting so far."

In the meantime, Frieden called on lawmakers and politicians to "follow the science," and urged them to put forward "consistent messaging" amid conflicting directives from different levels of government.

"We need consistent messaging: masks are important, contact tracing is important, testing is important, staying home is important," he said.

In recent days, President Trump has resisted calling for a nationwide mask mandate. 

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms over a mask mandate he said was unenforceable. 

"We need to get on the same page, track what's really important, and work together while we stay physically apart," Frieden said.

He called the U.S. an "outlier" and a "laggard" in the global fight against the pandemic. 

The Trump Administration has also been on a pressure campaign — chiefly led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the president himself — to get schools to reopen in the fall. 

The reopening would be "difficult if not impossible" in communities where COVID-19 is not contained, Frieden said.

He called for a "science-driven, comprehensive, coordinated attack" on the coronavirus, which would require unity from officials who have already made the pandemic a political issue.

"Right now the estimates are that we will have over 200,000 deaths in this country within the next couple of months," he said. "This doesn't have to be. It is not too late to do a lot better than we're doing now."