I wish to correct one aspect of the otherwise informative interview with assistant professor Jessica Metcalf (Life of the Mind, Feb. 3).
It is typically staff of the approximately 2,800 local health departments, employees of local and state government, who are the ground troops tracking cases down, conducting contact tracing, and assuring vaccination of those who need it during outbreaks of disease. When outbreaks become multi-state in nature or particularly troublesome within a state or community, the excellent employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be asked to join employees of local and state health departments to provide additional support and sometimes specialized expertise.
Confusing the work of CDC with that of local health departments poorly informs the public about the extent to which their local health departments protect them, promote their health, and prevent disease. As a result, it diminishes the political and financial support these non-federal departments need to be continuously effective.