In 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) CDC worked around the clock – and around the globe – to protect Americans from health threats. While the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the news, a number of other public health and scientific advancements are worth highlighting.
“This has been a year of challenges, but also of innovation, modernization, and advancement in public health,” said Dr. Robert R. Redfield, CDC director. “I am hopeful for the future and the months to come as CDC continues to secure the safety of the American people and this Nation.”
Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic
As 2020 draws to a close, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise across the United States. This is the worst pandemic to hit Americans in over 100 years. CDC urges everyone to help us stop the spread of this new and dangerous virus by staying home if you can, wearing a mask, staying 6 feet from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, and washing your hands.
The U.S. is entering a pivotal phase of the COVID-19 response. In collaboration with federal, state, local, and other sector partners, CDC made investments to ensure a strong infrastructure to help states be ready to administer vaccines. The federal government has been working since the start of the pandemic to make a COVID-19 vaccine available as soon as possible.
CDC is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, playing a vital role in the U.S. response to the pandemic. The COVID-19 response is the largest and longest in CDC’s history.
As Redfield stated, “This is the next step in our efforts to protect Americans, reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and help restore some normalcy to our lives and our country.”
Ending the HIV Epidemic
There is an urgent need to get more people with HIV diagnosed early and into sustained HIV care and treatment. Each year, thousands of Americans still die from HIV and there are more than 36,000 new transmissions. The impact is greatest among certain groups.
We now have the tools, the knowledge, and the opportunity to end America’s HIV epidemic.
As part of the federal initiative Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE), CDC awarded $109 million to state and local health departments for implementation in 57 priority areas. A CDC study published in November 2020 highlighted that investments in HIV testing, care, and treatment have resulted in progress not only towards reducing the rate of HIV-related deaths, but decreasing the racial and ethnic disparities associated with HIV mortality. Through sustained and expanded efforts, the multi-year EHE initiative aims to reduce new HIV transmissions in the U.S. by at least 90% by the year 2030.
Ushering in a New Era of Public Health: CDC’s Public Health Data Modernization Initiative (DMI)
CDC's COVID-19 response is unprecedented. A few numbers begin to tell the tale:
- 7,800 CDC personnel have supported the outbreak response
- 1,423 CDC deployers have conducted 2,619 deployments to 230 cities across the United States and abroad.
- 186 COVID-19 studies (and counting) published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
- 27 Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) calls and webinars drew more than 250,000 participants from the healthcare community
- 38+ million times people have used CDC's online Coronavirus Self-Checker
- 596,000+ calls and emails to CDC-INFO
- 40,000+ inquiries from doctors, nurses, or other clinical staff and health departments received by CDC
- 2.7+ billion social media impressions on 8,100 CDC social media posts on the outbreak
- 2 billion times people viewed COVID information on CDC websites
Too often, detection of health threats means waiting until enough people come down with the same illnesses or injuries for public health authorities to notice. We’re working to fix that.
Public health today is moving ever closer to real-time identification of outbreaks and other health threats before they become widespread. Doing this means collecting, processing, and acting upon many kinds of information from a wide variety of sources.
New investments in fiscal year 2020 through Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supplemental funding enabled CDC to begin strengthening the public health data and surveillance infrastructure of the United States through the launch of the agency-wide Public Health Data Modernization Initiative.
This transformative, cross-cutting strategy will accelerate lifesaving prevention and response by:
- Bolstering our core “early warning” systems for real-time, linked data on emerging health threats
- Innovating toward pandemic-ready solutions for timely and complete data reporting to CDC
- Building a highly skilled public health workforce that applies state-of-the-art data skills and tools
- Integrating nationwide standards for efficient, secure data access and exchange
- Identifying the cause of a national lung injury outbreak: EVALI
In August 2019, CDC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), state and local health departments, and public health and clinical stakeholders began investigating a national outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use–associated lung injury (EVALI). More than 2,800 cases of EVALI were documented nationwide as of February 2020, and almost 70 people died from EVALI during this period.
CDC had a key breakthrough in identifying the probable cause of EVALI in late 2019. Data pointed to the EVALI culprit: vitamin E acetate – and additive used in THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products – was found in product emissions and in lung fluid samples of EVALI patients.
In February 2020, CDC published its definitive study on the lung fluid findings, which confirmed the association between vitamin E acetate and EVALI, in the New England Journal of Medicine. external icon
Since the identification of the primary cause of EVALI, coupled with efforts by CDC and other public health partners to educate the public about the risks of EVALI, cases have now dramatically declined since a peak in September 2019.
Ending Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Ebola, a deadly hemorrhagic fever that can spread rapidly if not quickly detected and responded to, is one of the most feared diseases in human history.
CDC was on the front lines in DRC for the first confirmed Ebola outbreak in 1976. And CDC was there again for the three back-to-back outbreaks DRC experienced from 2018 to 2020.
In 2020, CDC was part of the global public health response to two Ebola outbreaks in DRC. The first, which became the second largest Ebola outbreak in history, began in eastern DRC in August 2018 and was declared over on June 25, 2020. The second was announced on June 1, 2020 in Equateur Province and declared over on November 18, 2020. Among CDC significant contributions to ending the outbreaks in DRC, CDC worked with its international partners to vaccinate more than 320 thousand people in DRC and adjacent areas at risk for Ebola infection.