Guidelines drafted by CDC were rejected by Trump administration citing religious freedom, economic concerns: report

The Trump administration rejected guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to take public health precautions to safely reopen the economy, according to The New York Times.

The guidelines drafted were meant to instruct how schools, restaurants, churches and other establishments can safely reopen.

They include using disposable dishes and utensils at restaurants, closing every other row of seats in buses and trains while restricting transit routes to areas experiencing high levels of coronavirus infection.

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They also recommend separating children at school and camps into groups that shouldn’t mix throughout the day, among other suggestions. 

White House officials reportedly rejected the guidance due to concerns that it could hamper the administration’s efforts to swiftly reopen the economy.

One Department of Health and Human Services official rejected any guidance in churches, claiming the measures would infringe on religious liberties, according to the newspaper.  

According to the drafted guidance obtained by the Times, the CDC recommends that religious congregations maintain social distancing by observing services via live streaming, especially if certain members of the community are elderly, or otherwise at risk. 

The public health agency also recommends against the "sharing of frequently touched objects" such as worship aids, hymnals, prayer books, bulletins and other books, among other suggestions. 

“Governments have a duty to instruct the public on how to stay safe during this crisis and can absolutely do so without dictating to people how they should worship God,” said Roger Severino, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, according to the Times.

The news comes as Vice President Pence this week signaled the White House would wind down the work of the task force as many states being reopening processes. However, Trump reversed course Wednesday, saying that the task force would not be dissolved entirely but would evolve.

The president said it would remain in place “indefinitely” but that he may “add or subtract”  task force members.