The COVID-19 pandemic — and the Federal government’s response to the outbreak — has resulted in a steep increase in FOIA requests submitted to agencies on the front lines of that response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received nearly the same number of requests in the first half of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 as it did in all of FY 2019. At the same time, the media plays an essential role in informing the public about the evolving COVID-19 situation, and journalists depend upon the Federal records they obtain through FOIA.
At first glance, these might seem like competing interests — agencies focusing their limited resources on fighting a pandemic versus requesters submitting increasing numbers of complex requests for records related to their efforts. The CDC FOIA program views the relationship between the agency and the requester community (and in particular, journalists) as a partnership; like any successful partnership, good communication is the key. For this reason, the CDC has asked OGIS to host a webinar at which the agency will provide background on its FOIA process, share how the CDC is responding to COVID-19 requests, and provide tips for successful FOIA requests for COVID-19 records.
The “FOIA Requests for CDC COVID-19 Records” webinar will take place on Tuesday, May 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT. OGIS Director Alina Semo will host a conversation with CDC’s FOIA leadership, who will provide insight into the agency’s FOIA program and suggest strategies for successful FOIA requests.
This meeting requires registration for all who wish to attend. Please join us for this special event by registering online before 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 8. After you register, OGIS will send instructions by email to all registrants for accessing the meeting. We want to hear your questions for CDC FOIA — please submit questions in advance of the webinar by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. While the webinar will include a question and answer period, please note that the CDC and OGIS will not discuss issues related to particular FOIA requests or outside the realm of FOIA.