Last November, Biden advisers called for Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a career official at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to take a central role in briefings on the pandemic, a move aimed at elevating science and restoring public trust in the CDC. That never happened, and recent CDC moves have left observers puzzled.
In April, the CDC reassigned Dr. Messonnier from her longtime position as director of the CDCs National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). Then in early May, Messonnier suddenly resigned from the CDC and declined to explain the reason.
On May 7, David Lim of Politico asked CDC director Rochelle Walensky, Can you explain why she [Messonnier] was reassigned two weeks ago, away from the agencys COVID-19 vaccine taskforce? And why is she now leaving the CDC?
Dr. Messonnier has been a true hero, Walensky replied, And through her career, in terms of public health, shes been a steward of public health for the nation. Over this pandemic and through a many-decade career, shes made significant contributions, and she leaves behind a strong, strong force of leadership and courage in all that shes done.
Why Messonnier left the CDC remained a mystery, but her work was a matter of record.
On Jan. 17, 2020, Messonnier mentioned the outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, China, which has been identified as being caused by a novel coronavirus. It was a serious situation, and she cautioned about travel to and from Wuhan. In a Jan. 24 briefing, Messonnier said we expect [to] find more cases of novel coronavirus in the United States associated with the ongoing and expanding outbreak in Wuhan, China, but the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time.
Politico reporter Sarah Owermohle asked, What kind of dialogue are you guys having with Chinese health authorities? As for the source of the novel coronavirus, if there is any inkling of where it is coming from? Messonnier was all over it.
CDC has a team thats been in China for many years where we work closely with the Department of Health in China, she said. I think we should be clear to compliment the Chinese on the early recognition of the respiratory outbreak center in the Wuhan market, and how rapidly they were able to identify it as a novel coronavirus.
In a Jan. 29, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Messonnier gave an update on the ongoing 2019 novel coronavirus situation in the United States. The CDC was screening passengers from Wuhan and Messonnier confirmed that the CDC would be part of a World Health Organization (WHO) mission in China.
In a Jan. 30, 2020 telebriefing, Messonnier told reporters the CDC does not currently recommend wearing face masks for this new virus. Messonnier did not reveal how she knew it was a new virus or how it is differed from others. The WHO mission to China was good news and theres much to learn from there.
In her Feb. 3, 2020 telebriefing, Messonnier mentioned five additional infections from the novel coronavirus, with four linked to Wuhan travel. The State Department, is bringing more people back from Wuhan, greeted by CDC teams at Department of Defense locations. On Feb. 5, reporters asked about individuals returning from Wuhan. Messonnier said that was not something that Im at liberty to talk about today but did not reveal which U.S. official laid down the restriction, or why.
In her Feb. 12, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Messonnier said most of the U.S. cases were found before the travel restrictions from Wuhan were put in place. We should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the U.S., she said, and at some point, we are likely to see community spread in the U.S.
In her Feb. 25, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Messonnier told reporters, Its not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses. That triggered a question from Craig Fiegener of KNX Radio in Los Angeles.
Is the Chinese government leveling with you? Fiegener wanted to know. Are they telling you the truth? Have they given you the straight dope, so to speak, as to what you need to know about the coronavirus?
In terms of the Chinese government, Messonnier responded, there has been a WHO team on the ground in China as well in Wuhan. There are data coming out from those efforts. We have a lot of information from China. She did not reveal any information from China, and offered no judgment on the truthfulness of WHO data.
In a March 9, 2020 CDC telebriefing, Messonnier said, There is risk of being exposed and getting sick from this virus and there is risk of getting very sick or dying from illness with this virus. This virus is capable of spreading easily and sustainably from person to person based on the available data. The report of the World Health Organization mission to China describes the virus as being highly contagious. And theres essentially no immunity against this virus in the population because its a new virus.
Once again, none of the reporters asked Messonnier how she knew it was a new virus capable of spreading easily and causing people to get sick and die. Tom Howell of the Washington Times asked about the link between travelers from China and coronavirus cases in Washington State.
I think thats an interesting hypothesis, Messonnier said. But another hypothesis is that a secondary seeding of the community and the strain causing the more recent cases in Washington state matches [the] sequences that have been posted from China. On the other hand, there were alternate explanations of the same findings on which Messonnier did not elaborate.
After that briefing, Messonnier faded from public view. And after the election, she never returned to prominence. By the time of her reassignment in April, 2021, evidence was mounting that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was the most likely origin of the new virus.
The WIV received shipments of deadly pathogens from a lab in Canada and funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told reporters he is not convinced that COVID-19 developed naturally, and now claims to welcome an investigation of Chinas role in the pandemic. Any serious investigation should take account of Messonnier, who on Jan. 24, 2020, cited the Wuhan market, not the WIV, as the center of the new virus outbreak.
What did Messonnier know? When did she know it? What did she do about it? Why did she defer questions on China to the WHO? Did China ever do anything with which she or the CDC disagreed? Who told her she was not at liberty to discuss issues about Wuhan? What is Messonniers current understanding of the new virus, and did the WIV play a role in its development?
A new study contends Chinese scientists created COVID-19 in a lab then reverse engineered it to appear natural. What does Messonnier think about that, and how does it square with what she said in 2020? Investigators might also pose questions to Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
If Dr. Nancy Messonnier is a true hero, then why did the CDC remove her from her position? Why did she leave the CDC in May, and what is she doing now? Is the CDC trying to hide something? So many questions. The American people, who suffered so much from the new virus, have a right to know.