White House shelved CDC reopening guidance: report

The White House has shelved an extensive report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) meant to provide local officials with step-by-step instructions for reopening public spaces during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an Associated Press report released Thursday.

The 17-page document, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was set to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told it “would never see the light of day,” a CDC official told the AP. 

The guidance was created by the nation’s top disease experts to guide state officials on when and how to reopen public areas such as mass transit, day care centers, summer camps, churches and restaurants, according to the news service.

It reportedly includes flow charts meant to be used to consider alternate scenarios for reopening.

One of the suggestions includes restaurants and bars installing sneeze guards at cash registers, along with eliminating any public food displays like buffets or salad bars.

Similar points have previously been distributed by the CDC and other federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration but have not been collected in one single place, the AP reported.

The CDC document is reportedly more detailed than the “Opening Up America Again” guidelines released by the White House last month, which instructed state and local governments to reopen in accordance with federal and local “regulations and guidance.”

Administration officials did not want to release the detailed guidance from the CDC because it included specifics on how sectors could reopen, the AP noted, adding that a source close to the White House task force described it as a “slippery slope” since the coronavirus is affecting areas of the country different.


“On April 16, President Trump released guidelines for opening America up again. Those guidelines made clear that each state should open up in a safe and responsible way based on the data and response efforts in those individual states,” a White House coronavirus task force member who requested anonymity said.

“Issuing overly specific instructions—that CDC leadership never cleared—for how various types of businesses open up would be overly prescriptive and broad for the various circumstances states are experiencing throughout the country. Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn’t be the same guidance for urban New York City,” the task force member added.

“For some of these reasons, the Task Force who saw this after it was leaked, asked for certain revisions to be made to not only follow the phases in the Open Up America Guidance, but work for all across America whether in rural areas or urban.”

A copy of the report was obtained by the AP from a second federal official who was not authorized to release it.

The news service noted that the CDC typically plays a center role in providing guidance and science-based information during public health crises. However, the agency has not had a regular news briefing on the pandemic in nearly two months. CDC Director Robert Redfield is a member of the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Pence, but the AP noted that he does not make regular appearances.

The Hill has reached out to the CDC for comment.

The White House coronavirus task force has already begun evolving, becoming less visible in recent weeks as Trump replaced its daily press briefings with photo ops focused on economic relief efforts and meetings with governors.

Trump early Wednesday signaled he was reconsidering whether to disband the task force, tweeting that it would continue “indefinitely” but that its membership and focus would likely change.

He then reversed his comments after public outcry,  saying he didn’t realize how “popular” the group of medical experts and government leaders was.

–Morgan Chalfant contributed to this report, which was updated at 11:59 a.m.

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