Public/Global Health

CDC won’t revise school opening guidelines after Trump criticism

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said Thursday the agency will not revise its guidance on reopening schools despite President Trump’s criticism that the guidelines were “very tough and expensive.”

But Redfield said the CDC will be issuing additional guidelines on face coverings and symptom screenings for schools.

“It’s not a revision of the guidelines,” Redfield said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” 

“It’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance that we put forward.”

Trump on Wednesday slammed the guidelines CDC has put out over the past several weeks, saying the agency was “asking schools to do very impractical things.”

Later that day, Vice President Pence framed the CDC’s forthcoming guidance as a response to Trump’s criticisms, saying it would offer “more clarity.”

Before Trump’s remarks on Twitter, Pence had said the CDC would be issuing additional guidelines that would address face coverings, symptom screening, school settings and “decisionmaking tools” for parents and caregivers.

Redfield echoed that Thursday, telling George Stephanopoulos in a tense interview on “Good Morning America” that “our guidelines are our guidelines but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid communities that are trying to reopen K through 12.” 

Pressed on what part of the existing guidelines Trump finds too restrictive, Redfield demurred, noting that the guidelines are not requirements.

“We want to work with the local jurisdictions to see how they could be implemented in their schools to facilitate the reopening of schools,” Redfield said.

Questioned again on whether the CDC would relax its existing guidelines, Redfield said the agency would work with schools to help determine what works best in each situation.

“It was intentionally non-prescriptive,” Redfield said.

The CDC’s guidance, which was updated more than a week ago, calls for keeping desks six feet apart, staggering arrival and dismissal times and canceling field trips and other large gatherings in communities where there is “minimal to moderate” spread of COVID-19. The agency only recommends dismissals of longer than two weeks in communities where there is “substantial” spread of the disease.

Trump and his allies have urged school administrators and local officials to resume in-person learning this fall as they try to get the country back to normal despite surging coronavirus cases in many states.

Experts have noted that the economic recovery is in many ways tied to school reopenings as parents have been forced to balance work with child care and homeschooling. Opening schools would allow people to go to work and could benefit the economy.

School reopenings are favored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which pointed to the unintended consequences of closures on students, including child hunger. 

Some experts warn, however, that it will be difficult to reopen schools in areas with growing COVID-19 outbreaks.

There is evidence the coronavirus is far less lethal for young people. Still, there are concerns about asymptomatic schoolchildren bringing the virus home to older relatives and about whether older teachers, administrators and school staff members would be able to safely return to their jobs.

“The latest surge of COVID-19 cases in these states puts the communities, including the schools, at great risk,” said former CDC Director Tom Frieden, who served during the Obama administration.

Tags Donald Trump George Stephanopoulos

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