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CDC director apologizes during meeting with disability rights activists after frustration with political response

The Biden administration took steps to dampen disability anger over its response to the disability community this week when Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky met with rights activists on Friday.

People with disabilities had been frustrated with the Biden administration’s rollout of the vaccine and its focus on keeping schools open. But the anger came to a head last week during an interview with Hello america, Dr. Walensky cited a study that showed that severe disease in vaccinated people occurred in a small number of people and said that “the overwhelming number of deaths, more than 75%, occurred in people who had at least four, so really these are people who were sick to begin with.

“It’s really heartbreaking, to see the CDC director talk about our lives like that,” said Tory Cross, senior policy adviser at Be a Hero. The independent this week. “But wouldn’t have landed with people if it didn’t reflect the reality that this is how the CDC really decided to treat us, the CDC decided so much to let us die instead of being part of the use with all the power of the federal government to protect not only the disabled and the chronically ill and people with comorbidities, but to protect everyone.

In response, many people with disabilities began tweeting in response, using the hashtag #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy, coined by activist Imani Barbarin. Ms Barbarin said she was also concerned about how medical professionals had to return to work after five days and said it was not just the CDC’s response, but the administration. in general.

“Because, like they’re not shutting down the economy, like they’re not shutting down schools and businesses and things like that, they’re increasing the risk of people becoming more and more disabled,” Ms Barbarin said. The independent. “That means our services were already at boiling point. We must increase our capacity to care for our disabled community if we are to create a disabled community.

Much of the administration’s frustration is rooted in the fact that in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Joe Biden failed to release a comprehensive disability policy when his competitors did and when he published its policy, it was long after the end of the primary.

“He wasn’t my first choice in the primary, but he was someone I strongly supported as soon as he was our candidate,” said Jessica Benham, a Pittsburgh state legislator who is the Commonwealth’s first openly autistic state legislator.

“I think part of what worried me was that it took his campaign longer than some of the other campaigns to come up with a really disability-centric platform. But he finally did and I was therefore absolutely happy to support him and to be a delegate.

But Ms Benham said she was deeply disappointed with Mr Biden’s handling of the pandemic and said she expected that kind of message from the Trump administration.

“I don’t even want to say it’s borderline eugenics because it is eugenics,” Ms Benham said on Sunday. “So to have someone who promised our community that they would stand with us, protect us, execute and create a response to the pandemic that would protect the most high-risk and marginalized of us, to have this president, who made on those promises, getting them back is what I think is so disappointing to me.

On Friday, Dr. Walensky met with a consortium of disability leaders and issued a formal apology.

“We still hope that the CDC and the administration will take our requests seriously,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, during an appeal to the press Friday. Bethany Lilly, director of revenue policy for the US Arc, said the goal of the meeting was to hold the CDC accountable while establishing a working relationship with policymaking.

“And we wanted to provide them with a very detailed discussion of the political needs that we have as a community,” she said.

Elena Hung, who co-founded the organization Little Lobbyists which advocates for medically complex children, said advocates explained why the comments were harmful.

“We felt that this framing was really important because we wanted the director to understand what her words and actions have on the lives of disabled and chronically ill people,” she said. “The director issued an apology at the start for how hurtful her comments were and we acknowledged that and asked her for a public apology to the disability community beyond those of us who were on this call.”

Maria Town, president and CEO of the American Association of Disabled People, said the director was present for the duration of the 45-minute discussion. Matt Cortland, senior researcher for Data for Progress, specifically discussed the need for better masking guidelines, noting how many people still use cloth masks, even though they know N95 masks offer better protection.

“Americans know they need better protection, but they need technical guidance because employees are basing corporate employee policies on CDC guidelines,” Cortland said.

Ms Hung said that in addition to a public apology, there needed to be a real change in policies, a sentiment that was echoed throughout the press call.

“This is a very first step toward addressing the damage his comments and CDC policies have done to the disability community,” she said. “The only way to rebuild that trust is to take substantial action, including issuing a public apology to the community, we hope to see that as soon as possible, establishing a working relationship between the CDC and the disability community, which will lead the CDC to take concrete steps to address and implement the detailed policy recommendations we have already made and take the necessary urgency and aggressiveness that will save so many lives.

Ms. Ives-Rublee said activists hoped the CDC would schedule another meeting to address some of the conversations.

At the same time, activists said they hoped to arrange meetings with other federal government officials such as Dr Anthony Fauci, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Health and Human Services Secretary social Xavier Becerra.

“We deserve to live,” Be a Hero co-executive director Jamila Headley said Friday. “We deserve to prosper. We want to survive this pandemic and we want a CDC and a CDC director who will fight for us. »

The Independent Gt

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