Savannah Guthrie asks CDC director if memes mocking the agency point to a 'larger credibility problem'

Savannah Guthrie and Rochelle Walensky
Savannah Guthrie and Rochelle Walensky Today / Screenshot

Savannah Guthrie grilled CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday's Today show about why the agency's COVID-19 guidelines have been "so confusing."

In her interview with Walensky, the Today anchor asked about the CDC's updates to its COVID-19 isolation recommendations. The agency tweaked its guidelines to reduce the recommended isolation period for people with COVID-19 from 10 days to five days if asymptomatic, and earlier this week, the recommendations were updated again to say that a test isn't necessary to leave isolation but that those who do get a positive test result should continue isolating.

"With all due respect and understanding to the changing and volatile nature of this virus, why is the guidance so confusing?" Guthrie asked.

Walensky defended the guidelines, saying the agency is "standing on the shoulders of years of science," and explained the guidelines were most recently updated so people would know how to interpret a test result at the end of their isolation period if they want to "take that extra step." But Guthrie also asked about people mocking the CDC's advice via a popular meme that involves jokingly coming up with other things the CDC is recommending, such as one tweet Guthrie read: "The CDC now says that it is in fact okay to eat Tide Pods."

"It's amusing, people letting off steam of course, but is there a larger credibility problem with your agency right now?" Guthrie asked.

In response, Walensky defended the CDC as "12,000 people who are working 24/7 following the science with an ever-evolving nature in the midst of a really fast moving pandemic," adding the CDC will "continue to improve how we communicate to the American public." The comments come as CNN reports the CDC director has sought media training to "improve her communication skills" as CDC scientists grow "increasingly frustrated with Walensky's handling of public health guidance."

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