WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be able to continue its immediate response to seasonal influenza in the event the government shuts down, a senior administration official said Friday night on a call with reporters.
“CDC will specifically be continuing their ongoing influenza surveillance,” the official said. “They’ll be collecting data reported by states, hospitals, [and] others and they’ll be reporting that critical information needed for state and local health authorities.”
Those remarks stand in direct contrast to the fiscal year 2018 contingency plan posted by the Department of Health and Human Services Friday morning, which specifically lists the agency’s seasonal flu work as one of the activities that will not continue in the case of a shutdown.
This week’s potential shutdown coincides with one of the worst flu outbreaks in recent memory. Data released by the CDC Friday showed flu cases were still climbing. The CDC will only keep 37 percent of its employees on board in the event of a shutdown, according to that FY18 plan.
Government employees whose work is not deemed “essential” according to strict legal statute are not able to work when the government shuts down. There are some exceptions for positions that aren’t funded by annual federal appropriations, or where the employees are engaged in “activities that involve the safety of human life and protection of property.”
Overall, roughly 50 percent of HHS employees will be furloughed if the government shuts down at midnight Friday. Senior administration officials said Friday they had directed agencies across the U.S. government to step up their contingency planning this week and to begin to notify employees of whether or not they were considered “essential.”