A far-left (borderline Marxist) group calling itself the “People’s CDC” has called for more radical coronavirus policies like indefinite mask mandates and social distancing, charging that America’s relaxed pandemic policies stem from a racist eugenics impulse beholden to corporate interests.
Profiled at length in the New Yorker, the People’s CDC can best be described as a “ragtag coalition of academics, doctors, activists, and artists who believe that the government has left them to fend for themselves.” Founded by Mindy Thompson Fullilove, a professor of urban policy and health at the New School, the group has thousands of supporters who receive weekly newsletters and emails highlighting the latest pandemic trends while advocating stricter policies.
The People’s CDC also received funding from organizations like the Kresge Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a highly influential health philanthropy. Though Fullilove did not specify if the group has any supporters within the actual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), member Edgar Rivera Colón said in a recent webinar that they have “comrades that are within the C.D.C. who are saying to us, ‘Go ahead with your bad selves.’”
While the group puts up a science-oriented front on its website, the rhetoric from some of its top members suggests Marxist leanings. For instance, not only does the group claim that the CDC relaxed pandemic policies to appease corporate interests under President Joe Biden’s leadership, but it also suggests that those relaxed policies had racist intent. Per the New Yorker:
The People’s C.D.C. strongly supports mask mandates, and they have called on federal, state, and local governments to put them back in place, arguing that “the vaccine-only strategy promoted by the CDC is insufficient.” The group has noted that resistance to masks is most common among white people: Lucky Tran, who organizes the coalition’s media team, recently tweeted a YouGov survey supporting this, and wrote that “a lot of anti-mask sentiment is deeply embedded in white supremacy.”
This kind of accusation is common for the People’s C.D.C. Their messaging has the unmistakable inflection of activist-speak, marked by a willingness to make eye-popping claims about the motivations of politicians, corporations, or anyone in power. “To name it clearly, the CDC’s policies are eugenic,” the Weather Report team wrote, in August. “They rely on and promote the indefensible stance that disabled and elderly, poor and working class people are disposable, unworthy of care, and unworthy of participation in society.” Eugenic policies have a long and ugly history, commonly associated with the Nazis, white supremacists, and others who advocate the racial purification of humanity. I asked Thill whether she truly believes that the C.D.C. is eugenicist, along these lines. “Just because a charge is difficult or impactful doesn’t make it a wrong charge,” she said.
The People’s CDC rejects the notion that individuals should be free to make their own choices about the coronavirus after enough information has been disseminated. In one Zoom meeting, Zoey Thill, a family physician in Brooklyn, said that individual risk assessment essentially means telling certain people in society to stay inside forever while granting a free pass to everyone else.
“When we say, ‘Do your individual risk assessment and plan accordingly,’ that says to certain people, ‘Stay inside forever—for fucking ever!’ ” she said. “For me, it’s about countering that. It’s about saying, ‘No, that’s not O.K.’”
Member Jirmanus Saba, a filmmaker, said that the group believes “there’s no acceptable number of deaths.”
“We’re all responsible for the safety of all life,” said Saba.
Several public health officials and former public health officials have criticized the group for its radicalism and its ideological phrasing. Howard Koch, Harvard public health professor and former Assistant Secretary of Health, called the group’s “zero COVID” goal unrealistic and backward in its thinking. Likewise, Tom Frieden, who led the CDC under former President Barack Obama, said that while the group’s suggestions may be necessary for high-risk or immunocompromised people, its call for indefinite universal masking has no practical application.
“If you’re giving recommendations that no one’s going to follow, that’s not only nonproductive,” Frieden told the New Yorker, “It’s counterproductive, because that undermines your credibility.”