The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received a letter signed by more than 1,000 of its employees calling it to declare racism a public health crisis.
The CDC employees have also called the agency to address “ongoing and recurring acts of racism and discrimination” against the CDC’s black employees.
The letter, obtained by NPR, read, “At CDC, we have a powerful platform from which to create real change. By declaring racism a public health crisis, the agency has an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the power of science to confront this insidious threat that undermines the health and strength of our entire nation.”
The letter, dated June 30, was addressed to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, which refers to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks.
The employees also cited the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the black community, with data suggesting that African-Americans are two times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people,
The letter also said that the failure to address racism to health problems is one of the key reasons why the nation has seen little progress in taking disparate care over the past five decades.
It outlines seven demands for change, including declaring racism a public health crisis, diversifying senior leadership, and addressing the CDC’s “toxic culture of racial discrimination” through mandatory implicit bias and culture sensitivity education training for all staff.
The letter, which was circulated among 11,000 CDC employees for signatures, was signed by only nine percent of the workforce as of Sunday, according to NPR.
A CDC spokesman acknowledged that Dr. Redfield received the letter and responded to it, adding, “CDC is committed to fostering a fair, equitable, and inclusive environment in which staff can openly share their concerns with agency leadership.”
Former CDC medical officer Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones told NPR that Dr. Redfield’s response to the letter did not address the specific calls for change. She said, “I find that disheartening and disrespectful.”