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Former MGH doctor Rochelle Walensky, now head of CDC, says there’s work to be done but better days lie ahead

Dr. Rochelle Walensky is the new head of the CDC
Dr. Rochelle Walensky is the new head of the CDCChip Somodevilla/Getty

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that coronavirus testing, surveillance, and vaccinations must be stepped up to stop a pandemic that has had a “truly heartbreaking” impact on the country.

Walensky, formerly chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said she recognized “the seriousness of the moment. The toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on America is truly heartbreaking — for the loss of our loved ones and our beloved ways of life.”

“At Massachusetts General Hospital, I saw firsthand the many difficulties this pandemic brings to our frontline workers and first responders, hospitals and public health systems, communities, and loved ones,” she said in a statement on her first day as CDC director.

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“Better, healthier days lie ahead,” she said. “But to get there, COVID-19 testing, surveillance, and vaccination must accelerate rapidly.”

She said the nation must also confront the “longstanding public health challenges of social and racial injustice and inequity that have demanded action for far too long” and make up for potentially lost ground in areas like suicide, substance use disorder and overdose, chronic diseases, and global health initiatives.

She said the CDC would “continue to focus on what is known — and what more can be learned — about the virus to guide America.”

She said the CDC would undertake a comprehensive review of all its existing guidance on the coronavirus. “Wherever needed, this guidance will be updated so that people can make decisions and take action based upon the best available evidence,” she said.

President Biden selected Walensky last month to lead the agency.



Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.