CDC review finds Trump-era guidance was not based on science

Federal health officials have identified and removed guidance documents released during the Trump administration that were not grounded in science and not “primarily authored” by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) staff, according to an agency internal review.

The review specifically cited three reports issued by the Trump administration that had already been removed from the agency’s website: guidance on reopening schools issued in July, guidelines on “reopening America” issued in April, and guidance on COVID-19 testing issued in August. 

The review was conducted by the CDC’s principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat, at the request of the agency’s director, Rochelle Walensky, as part of a pledge to restore the public’s trust in the CDC. 

It was first reported by The Washington Post.

In a memo to Walensky summarizing the findings, Schuchat said the review will “ensure that all of CDC’s existing guidance related to COVID-19 is evidence based and free of politics.”

The review found that some guidance “was not primarily authored by CDC staff,” that some used language that was not as strong as it could have been and that some needed to be updated based on new evidence.

Schuchat also recommended improvements to help the public more easily find when new guidance is posted or existing guidance is updated. The memo said it was often difficult to “decipher the core recommendations” in long guidance documents and that “the crux of what was new or changed was difficult to find.”

All three removed documents drew backlash from experts at the time they were issued and led to concerns that Trump administration political officials were meddling in science-based recommendations. 

The CDC’s guidance on reopening the country from April turned out to be far less detailed than the guidelines originally drafted.

The guidance on schools was focused heavily on the benefits of in-person classes and downplayed the risks. The document was released in late July, weeks after the president attacked previous guidelines, tweeting that they were “very tough and expensive.” It was removed in October.

Last August, the CDC faced significant backlash from public health officials, local health departments and members of Congress when it changed its guidance to state that people without symptoms “don’t necessarily need a test” even if they have had close contact with confirmed cases. 

The agency made the move by updating its website but did not make any public announcement or explain the reasoning behind the major revision. It was replaced in September.

Tags CDC CDC guidance Coronavirus COVID-19 Rochelle Walensky
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