A new forecasting center for infectious diseases was officially launched by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.
The goal of the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics is to act as a "National Weather Service" for infectious disease outbreaks, and to guide public health decisions during outbreaks. These can include developing vaccines, distributing antiviral drugs, and helping people decide whether it's safe to go to public places, epidemiologist Dylan George, the new center's director of operations, told reporters, CNN reported.
George said he and his colleagues are tasked with the "critical need" to improve the government's "ability to forecast and model emerging health threats."
"In short, we need to use data more effectively to guide response efforts," George said.
Planning for the center began last August with $200 million in initial funding from the 2021 COVID-19 stimulus package, CNN reported.
Since then, the team has estimated the severity of the Omicron variant and the timing and impact of the variant-driven surge in the United States, and contributed to analyses that guided policies on test-to-stay in schools, international travel and vaccine boosters.
"I am excited we have launched CDC's Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an agency news release.
"This new center is an example of how we are modernizing the ways we prepare for and respond to public health threats," she said. "I am proud of the work that has come out of this group thus far and eager to see continued innovation in the use of data, modeling and analytics to improve outbreak responses."
As the United States nears 1 million COVID deaths, "the failure to be prepared is really startling," said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha.
"The response from our leadership -- our public health leadership -- has been to scramble, hold together evidence, try to make the best decisions we can. And I would argue we've done a pretty good job," Jha told a gathering supporting the launch of the new center, CNN reported. "But it's also been really clear, this is no way to run a response to a pandemic."
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on COVID-19.