Fact Check: CDC Job Posting For Public Health Advisor (Quarantine Program) Is NOT Proof Of A COVID-19 Conspiracy

Fact Check

  • by: Gita Smith
Fact Check: CDC Job Posting For Public Health Advisor (Quarantine Program) Is NOT Proof Of A COVID-19 Conspiracy Job Still Open

Is a November 2019 job listing for a quarantine advisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proof the government knew the COVID-19 health crisis was about to strike the United States? No, that's not true. It appears people have misread a line in the job description, taking it to mean the advisor would be needed from November through May 2020 -- May being when many states are considering easing stay-at-home orders. But the posting has nothing to do with the job's length of service and everything to do with when people are able to apply.

Memes appeared on social media suggesting a conspiracy had been proven by the CDC posting, including a post (archived here) on Facebook on April 23, 2020. It opened:

A job listing on the CDC website posted November 2019 hiring public health advisors for a Quarantine Program in the USA for exact dates of pandemic. (I mean how did they ever know we would have to quarantine???) look at the dates yourself. Also google yourself. It comes right up as first option. Do we really still believe this was a random virus that just somehow came from China? It's so much bigger than that."

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

The line in the application -- "OPEN PERIOD: 2019-11-15 to 2020-05-15" -- is common language for government and other job postings. It simply indicates the open dates for applications to be submitted.

Moreover, even as some states have started easing lockdowns, no one knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last. Statistical models keep pushing dates back, with predictions now stretching into late 2020.

Surveys of infectious disease experts about COVID-19's toll, the severity and length of the pandemic are not simple. The CDC is partnering with 10 universities and labs, such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of Texas/ Austin, University of Geneva (Switzerland) and Youyang Gu, a New York-based predictor of COVID-19's international scope.

The different forecasts make it clear how much uncertainty exists about what the coming weeks hold.

So, why the start date of the posting -- roughly a month before when many experts believe the outbreak began in Wuhan, China?

First, the CDC was aware that any type of health crisis could hit the nation -- including, for example, tuberculosis. TB, which is already inside the country's borders and is spread via the air like flu or COVID-19. Up to 13 million people in the U.S. are living with latent TB.

Second, the the CDC, the National Institutes for Health and other agencies had received warning three years ago of the likelihood of an outbreak during the Trump administration. According to a January 2017 article in Healio, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there is "no doubt" Trump will be confronted with an infectious disease outbreak during his presidency.

He made his remark during a forum on pandemic preparedness at Georgetown University. Fauci said the Trump administration would not be challenged only by ongoing global health threats like influenza, HIV and perhaps Zika virus.

Thus, the need for quarantine advisors.

During the forum, Fauci -- who has served under six presidents -- and others noted outbreaks that recent administrations have faced. Obama, for example, had to contend with the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

Suspicions about this CDC ad are baseless. It is not the job that ends in May; it is the application period.

Lead Stories is awaiting word from the CDC.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Gita Smith

Gita Smith covered news for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Montgomery Advertiser, and she wrote/edited medical newsletters for American Health Consultants at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic when clear, factual information was as needed. 

For a time, she taught in Auburn University’s journalism department and ran the History-Geography lab at Alabama State University, where she taught students to write research papers . She believes the following to be true: The power of the free press may appear to be a weak reed to lean on, but it separates democracies from juntas.

Read more about or contact Gita Smith

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