Illustration by Anthony Freda

Why couldn’t Bob Redfield say he opposed lockdowns and school closures when he was head of CDC? Because all communications had to go through the NSC.

By: Debbie Lerman


A few days ago, Dr. Robert Redfield, who headed the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) during the first year of Covid, said in an interview that vaccine mandates were a bad idea and that lockdowns and school closures were government overreach. He said the virus came from a US-funded lab in Wuhan. He said Anthony Fauci made mistakes and was not transparent enough with the public.

Hopefully, Redfield’s admissions and critiques will open up discussion in wider circles about these important aspects of the Covid response.

Even if that happens, however, many people who have been censored and punished for making  similar claims in the past 3-4 years are asking: Why didn’t Redfield oppose what he claims are terrible policies when they were being implemented and while he was a in leading public health role?

Here’s one possible explanation:

Pandemic Communications Were Controlled by the National Security Council, not HHS/CDC

As discussed in previous articles, beginning in mid-March 2020, the HHS was removed from its leadership role in pandemic response and replaced by FEMA/DHS. The National Security Council (NSC) was in charge of pandemic policy on behalf of the White House Task Force.

Prior to Covid, all pandemic planning documents designated HHS (Health and Human Services) as the Lead Federal Agency for pandemic response. And in all those documents, CDC — a sub-agency of HHS — played a leadership role in the response.

Communications, specifically, were supposed to be a big part of HHS/CDC’s pandemic leadership role.

As clearly stated in the U.S. Government’s COVID-19 Response Plan (which is publicly available only because someone leaked it to The New York Times and they left it on their server): “HHS leads and coordinates all federal communication, messaging, and release of public health and medical information” and “HHS develops and publishes key public messages and talking points.”

CDC, in its key role as “an operational component of HHS that is responsible for the nation’s health protection,” provides guidance on diagnosis, clinical management of cases, use of NPIs, and non-pharmaceutical mitigation strategies as it “disseminates key public health and risk mitigation messages to the public.”

Unbeknownst to the public, however, the CDC stopped fulfilling all of these designated pandemic response functions at the end of February 2020.

In fact, the very same government planning document that delineates the communications roles of the HHS and CDC, also directly contradicts itself, stating that as of February 28, 2020, “OVP leads and coordinates all federal communication and messaging.” 

OVP is the Office of the Vice President, where the White House Task Force was housed. The National Security Council was in charge of policy for the Task Force.

A Senate report from December 2022 confirms that “the White House,” (which, for everything Covid, does not mean the President but rather the Task Force and the National Security Council), took control of all Covid communications away from the CDC:

The CDC, presumably including Redfield, although he is not mentioned by name, was naturally frustrated: 

As these government documents clearly indicate, the CDC – and its director, Dr. Redfield – was not able to communicate directly with the public about the Covid pandemic. All messaging had to go through the White House Task Force, whose policy was determined by the National Security Council.

Furthermore, many CDC officials could not even attend the meetings where Covid policy decisions were made.

Covid Meetings Were Classified by the NSC

On March 11, 2020 Reuters reported that “The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified.” Reuters sources said “the National Security Council (NSC), which advises the president on security issues, ordered the classification.” 

This meant many public health officials who did not have high enough clearance were left out of meetings. Redfield was probably one of them.

As Reuters reported [BOLDFACE ADDED]:

Staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from the interagency meetings, which included video conference calls, the sources said.

We had some very critical people who did not have security clearances who could not go,” one official said. “These should not be classified meetings. It was unnecessary.”

Moreover, anyone who did have clearance could not discuss what happened in those meetings:

The administration officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said they could not describe the interactions in the meeting room because they were classified.

This is an astonishing state of affairs that has received almost no attention.  It means that top-level discussions about the origins of the pandemic and the response strategy to the pandemic were never made public because the National Security Council classified them – and anyone who participated cannot tell us what was said.

So even if Redfield had attended those meetings, he would not be able to discuss them. Based on his testimony in a Congressional hearing in March 2023, however, I suspect he wasn’t even in those meetings.

As the New York Post reported on March 8, 2023:

Redfield, appointed by former President Donald Trump to lead the CDC in March 2018, told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Wednesday that in the early days of the pandemic, there was an “a priori decision that ‘there’s one point of view that we’re going to put out there, and anyone who doesn’t agree with it is going to be sidelined.’”

Redfield specifically cited a Feb. 1, 2020, conference call that he claimed was convened by Fauci and then-National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins to discuss the origins of COVID-19.

The former CDC director said that not only was he cut out of the call, he didn’t even find out about it until June 2021. 

Redfield may or may not have been sidelined by Fauci or Collins. He and the agency he headed were most definitely sidelined by the Task Force and the National Security Council.

One more note: The date of the official switch from HHS/CDC to OVP/NSC messaging is significant. It is just one day after everything shifted – on February 27, 2020 – from traditional, science-based and epidemiologically sound policy to the lockdown-until-vaccine biodefense plan.

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