Last week, the CDC issued updated guidance on how schools can reopen safely for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines included little discussion about the risks of returning to school during the pandemic but emphasized why it was important that students return to classrooms and the economic benefit of parents going back to work.
The guidelines were issued after Trump and DeVos called for all public schools to reopen fully and threatened to withhold federal funding from districts that did not (though they can’t take away funding already approved by Congress). The Washington Post reported that the new guidance had been edited by White House officials.
The Warren-Levin letter (see in full below) says:
Public comments made by President Trump and Vice President Pence and reports from CDC officials have made it clear that the Trump administration is politicizing public health, interfering in the CDC’s messages to the public, and prioritizing its political interest in reopening all schools for in-person instruction without regard to the advice of federal, state, and local public health experts. The challenging decision of whether and how to reopen schools safely for in-person instruction should be based on the best available public health information and guidance, without regard to politics. The public deserves to know the extent to which political pressure has affected the CDC’s decision-making, its updated, July 23, 2020 recommendations for schools and child cares programs, and any additional guidance that CDC issues in the future.
In May, the CDC had released school reopening guidance that included detailed safety measures that schools should take when reopening to try to prevent the spread of covid-19. The recommendations including social distancing policies that called for classroom desks to be six feet apart as well as staggered student arrival times, cloth masks for staff and daily temperature screenings for everybody inside the school.
The new guidelines for school administrators appear to drop specific reference to keeping students six feet apart and suggest that schools consider closing only if there is “substantial, uncontrolled transmission” of the virus.