Trump Suppressed CDC Report Concluding Fully Reopening Schools Is “Highest Risk”
An internal document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluding that “fully reopening schools and universities remained the ‘highest risk’ for the spread of the coronavirus” appears to have been suppressed by the White House, The New York Times reported in July.
- The 69-page document was labeled “For Internal Use Only” and was “was intended for federal public health response teams to have as they are deployed to hot spots around the country,” the newspaper reported.
- It was circulated the same week that President Trump demanded weaker guidelines for reopening schools and “that Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would release new guidelines, saying that the administration did not want them to be ‘too tough.’”
- Per the report, it is unclear whether the president himself viewed the document.
- The Times said the report “is mostly a compilation of C.D.C. documents already posted online” but also “includes reopening plans drafted by states, districts and individual schools and universities.”
And the package, from the Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, is pointed.
In a “talking points” section, the material is critical of “noticeable gaps” in all of the K-12 reopening plans it reviewed, though it identified Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma and Minnesota as having the most detailed.
- The document also contradicts pressure from Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reopen all schools in full, “expressly saying the federal government should not override local judgment.”
“What it tells us is left to its own devices, the C.D.C. can do a pretty good job in compiling a comprehensive document that shows the complexity of what institutions are facing,” said Terry W. Hartle, a senior vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents 1,700 college and university presidents and higher education executives.
“The good news is, this is very thoughtful and complete,” he added. “The bad news is, it’s never been released.”
Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, told The Times: “This is the document we needed six weeks ago. … While it is a great resource for superintendents as they navigate the myriad issues they need to address as they work to reopen schools, it is also a great communication tool, a resource that can be shared with the community to help account for decisions being made and to share reliable, science-based information.”
Since May, the C.D.C. website has cautioned that full reopening would be “highest risk,” and that in both K-12 and higher education settings, the more people interact, “and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread.” The “lowest risk,” the guidelines say, would be for students and teachers to attend virtual-only classes — an option the administration this week began a full-court press against.
Trump had threatened to pull funding from schools that do not fully reopen in the fall, though The Times noted at the time that he lacks the authority to follow through on the threat.