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Messonnier had spent more than 20 years as a prominent respiratory disease expert with the CDC. She became a central figure in the Trump administration’s chaotic early coronavirus response last February when she told reporters the coronavirus outbreak would soon change the way the nation lives.
“It’s not about if this will happen, but when it will happen,” she said at the time, two weeks before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Their appalling warning spiraled the stock market in contradiction to the assurances of the top Trump candidates who caught the White House off guard.
An angry former President Donald Trump threatened to fire her, which resulted in the regular CDC press conferences on the crisis being suspended and Messonnier out of government communications.
Mesonnier was expected to reappear after President Joe Biden’s election, as part of the new administration’s efforts to put top scientists at the forefront of Covid’s response and restore public confidence in the federal government. But she intermittently clashed with Biden officials over decision-making, said two people familiar with the matter. The White House has not resumed regular CDC briefings but has hired its own Covid-19 response team to handle the public messaging. CDC director Rochelle Walensky attended these briefings regularly.
Messonnier’s recent reassignment came the day before the Vaccination Agency advisory panel met to decide whether to pause for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She had played a prominent role in the work of the agency investigating the rare but severe blood clots that appeared in several people after vaccination. Federal officials have since lifted their recommended break in using the vaccine.
Messonnier’s position was added to the CDC’s Incident Management Response Team, led by Walensky and Henry Walke, the agency’s Director of Prevention and Emerging Infections.
Until two weeks ago, Messonnier was still being copied in agency emails and referred to as Walensky’s “advisor”, two officials familiar with the matter said.