Trump administration pressured CDC to play down risks of reopening schools: report
Top officials at the White House pressured leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to downplay the risk of the coronavirus to children as President Trump’s administration pushed to reopen schools this fall, according to a new report.
Citing documents and interviews with current and former government officials, The New York Times reported Tuesday the push included an effort to find data suggesting the pandemic was weakening and the coronavirus did not threaten children.
A former member of Vice President Pence’s staff, who has since resigned, told the Times she was asked on more than one occasion by Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, to convince CDC leaders to find and present proof that the virus has little effect on children.
The new Times report comes on the heels of a CDC study this week reporting teenagers are twice as likely to contract coronavirus as younger children. Separately, a study commissioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association found a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases among children in recent weeks.
Earlier this summer, the CDC was forced to revise its guidance for school reopenings after Trump pushed back on them, saying they were too “expensive” for districts and “tough.”
“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence said at a news conference in July. “That’s the reason why, next week, CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.”
On Monday, NBC News reported CDC Director Robert Redfield was overheard on a phone call disparaging Scott Atlas, a new member of the White House coronavirus task force, whom he accused of feeding Trump bogus science about the pandemic.
“Everything he says is false,” Redfield said of Atlas.
A White House official told The Hill on Tuesday the notion that a member of the coronavirus task force was “pressuring” Dr. Redfield to do something he didn’t agree with “seems preposterous on its face.”
“A conversation or comments exchanged between friends and colleagues is hardly some sort of politically-charged demand,” the official said. “Asking for more precise information on a chart is not pressure either.”
A spokesman for the CDC declined to comment.