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The Trump administration reportedly buried a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising how the country and its businesses could safely reopen and deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The 17-page document, obtained and published by the Associated Press Thursday, was set to be released last Friday, but CDC scientists were reportedly told that it would “never see the light of day.” The White House reportedly rejected the guidelines; chief of staff Mark Meadows apparently said in a meeting last week that they were “overly prescriptive,” according to the New York Times.
The text outlines guidance for child care centers, schools, religious centers, restaurants and bars, employers with vulnerable workers, and mass transit administrators for safely resuming service and provides instructions to help ensure safety and how to prepare for and deal with potential coronavirus cases.
In the guide, the CDC recommends three phases of reopening. While some of the guide’s recommendations already appear elsewhere in communications from the federal government, other pieces of advice are new, including:
- Keeping classes together and limiting sharing between children at child care programs, schools, and summer camps.
- Implementing flexible sick leave and work from home policies for workers in these places, if possible.
- Reducing occupancy at restaurants by spacing tables and bar stools six feet apart, and if possible, using phone app technology to alert customers when a table is ready rather than use buzzers.
- Closing or staggering use of break rooms in workplace environments with vulnerable workers.
- Installing sneeze guards or partitions at staffed ticket kiosks and on mass transit, and instituting measures such as closing every other row of seats and reducing occupancy on buses and train cars.
A person described by the AP as “close to the coronavirus task force” told the outlet that the White House has so far declined to offer specific, sector-based guidance “because the virus is affecting various parts of the country differently.”
The Trump administration has insisted that states should take the lead in combating the coronavirus, and continued doing so this week.
“This is a governor led effort, first of all. Let me emphasize that,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a briefing on Wednesday. “The President has said that governors make the decisions as to how to move forward and we encourage them to follow our phased approach.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC has been criticized for being unclear about its guidance, particularly over the issue of masks, which it once said weren’t necessary before reversing its own guidelines. The CDC has also taken a backseat to the White House’s coronavirus task force, on which CDC chief Robert Redfield serves but whose public health officials include the much-more public-facing Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.
The standard in a crisis is to turn to [CDC] for the latest data and latest guidance and the latest press briefing,” Dr. Howard Koh, a Harvard professor and former Obama administration public health official, told the AP. “That has not occurred, and everyone sees that.”
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Gov. Kim Reynolds, R-Iowa, in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)