Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY
Published 12:23 p.m. ET July 9, 2020 | Updated 3:56 p.m. ET July 9, 2020
The President and the CDC disagree on the guidelines for reopening schools.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pushed back on the idea that the organization was revising its guidelines on reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic at the behest of President Donald Trump but said the CDC instead was providing “additional reference documents.”
Dr. Robert Redfield made the comments Thursday in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America and said the documents are for parents and caregivers and for schools and teachers on how to “better monitor for symptoms” and how to use face masks.
“I think it’s really important,” Redfield said. “It’s not a revision of the guidelines. It’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance that we put forth.”
Highlights of guidelines: What are the CDC school guidelines Trump wants changed amid COVID-19?
On Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated Redfield’s comments in the interview and confirmed that the former guidelines were not being scrapped.
“Well I think Dr. Redfield was noting – he doesn’t plan to rescind the current guidance that’s out there,” McEnany said, speaking to reporters. “It will be supplemental guidance. But these are not requirements and not prescriptive – was the way he characterized the initial guidance and he said that this guidance should not be used as a reason for schools not to reopen. We all have the same goal here, and it’s for schools to reopen because the health of the child absolutely depends on it.”
Redfield’s comments came one day after Trump posted a couple of messages on his Twitter feed, expressing his displeasure with the CDC guidelines on school reopenings. The opening of schools has become a central issue for Trump in recent days, and he has continued to put pressure governors to make it happen in the fall.
“I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”
It followed another message in which Trump compared the situation in the U.S. to Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and “many other countries” and threatened to cut funding if schools are not reopened.
In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 8, 2020
Those countries, however, have largely contained the coronavirus and reported manageable new confirmed case totals on Tuesday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University: Germany (279), Denmark (10), Norway (11) and Sweden (283).
The U.S., on the other hand, saw a record 60,021 confirmed new cases reported on Tuesday.
Most education funding comes from the state and local levels, but the federal government provides billions through grants for low-income schools and special education programs.
Trump allies in some statehouses already are taking steps toward reopening schools.
For example, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., is requiring K-12 schools to reopen in August, despite the rising infection rates that have followed the reopening of the Sunshine State. In Arizona, schools will delay reopening for in-person classes this year until at least Aug. 17.
Also on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said in a press conference at the U.S. Department of Education that the “CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.”
Redfield stressed on Good Morning America that the CDC provides “guidances” and that they’re “not requirements” that schools must follow.
“My position is that the public health of the students of this nation is best served by getting these schools reopened,” Redfield said.
When pressed during Good Morning America on whether the CDC’s providing the reference documents was because of political pressure from Trump, Redfield sidestepped the question and said instead that the agency is “continuing to work with local jurisdictions to take the portfolio of guidance that we have given to make them practical for their schools to reopen.”
Contributing: Michael Collins, David Jackson and Courtney Subramanian
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