CDC forced to correct Mike Pence on school reopening guidelines


The CDC will not revise its guidelines despite the vice president's claim that it would.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was forced to contradict Vice President Mike Pence Thursday morning, saying it would not revise its safety guidelines for reopening schools this fall.

"Our guidelines are our guidelines," Director Robert Redfield told CNN. He added that the agency would "provide additional reference documents" to help schools, reiterating that the documents are "not a revision of the guidelines" but rather "additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance we put forward."

Current CDC guidance states that virtual classes present the lowest risk for students and teachers. Reopening schools with "full sized, in-person classes" puts students, teachers, and staff at the highest risk.

If schools do choose to reopen, the guidance calls for face masks to be worn "as feasible" and recommends classrooms, common areas, and buses be cleaned and disinfected "at least daily."

Redfield's comments contradict Pence, who said Wednesday that the CDC would issue new guidance for reopening schools amid backlash over the Trump administration’s decision to force them to do so too early.

"Well, the president said today, we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough," Pence said at a White House coronavirus task force press conference. Pence said the CDC would "be issuing a new set of tools" next week, indicating the tools were in response to Donald Trump’s criticism.

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump had attacked the guidelines as "very tough & expensive" as well as "impractical." Trump also threatened to withhold funding from schools that did not reopen.

Other Trump administration officials have demanded that schools reopen in the Fall even as coronavirus cases surge in many parts of the country.

"School must reopen, they must be fully operational," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told governors on Tuesday, according to the audio of the phone call obtained by the Associated Press. "Ultimately, it's not a matter of if schools need to open, it's a matter of how."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar himself downplayed the importance of the CDC guidelines elsewhere on Tuesday.

"Our CDC guidance is guidance. When it comes to reopening our schools, nobody should hide behind CDC's guidance to not reopen schools," he said during a White House event about school reopenings.

The United States saw a new single-day record of confirmed coronavirus cases — more than 60,000 — on Tuesday.

In April and May, Trump and many Republicans pushed for states to reopen businesses in order to spur economic activity, against the advice of health professionals.

"There's no doubt in my mind that when you pull back mitigation, you’re going to start seeing cases crop up here and there," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told CNN on April 30. "If you're not able to handle them, you're going to see another peak, a spike."

After Fauci gave a similar warning during a May 12 Senate hearing, Trump attacked him, insisting that businesses would continue to reopen.

"We're opening our country, people want it open, the schools are gonna be open," Trump said on May 13. Fauci, he claimed, "wants to play all sides of the equation."

After huge spikes in coronavirus cases in Texas, Arizona, and Florida — three of states that rushed to reopen their economies — governors were forced to backtrack, closing some businesses that had previously been reopened.

On Thursday morning, the United States had more than 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases. At least 132,237 people have died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.