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No “Revision” of Guidelines for School Reopenings, CDC Director Says

On Thursday, Robert Redfield said the CDC will only be issuing new information to help schools meet existing guidelines.

CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield looks on while testifying at a Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on July 2, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

Following complaints from President Donald Trump about recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how schools across the country should reopen in the fall while the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Vice President Mike Pence suggested on Wednesday that the agency would be issuing out new protocols in line with the president’s thinking.

But in an interview on Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CDC Director Robert Redfield dispelled notions that new recommendations would be made. Rather, the updates set to be announced next week will be supplemental to guidelines already issued out.

“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 forward,” Redfield said.

Documents that Pence had spoken of that would be released soon by the agency wouldn’t change what the CDC had already been recommending, he added.

“Our guidelines are our guidelines,” Redfield stated, “but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid communities that are trying to reopen K through 12.”

Trump on Wednesday bemoaned the idea that some schools across the country might not reopen their doors but continue to use distance learning, or open their doors part-time in order to address worries about the spread of coronavirus. According to him, however, such efforts were more about hurting him politically than limiting exposure to the disease.

“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,” Trump wrote in a tweet. He also suggested he “may cut off funding” to schools that do not open in the ways that he thinks they should.

In a separate tweet, Trump criticized the CDC for guidelines that he believes would make reopening school districts “very tough & expensive.”

“While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things,” Trump said.

Prior to Trump’s tweets, Pence’s rhetoric was more reflective of what Redfield had suggested on Thursday, that new information set to be released next week would be supplemental to the original CDC guidelines. After Trump’s complaints, however, Pence reframed what was going on to address the president’s qualms.

“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence said on Wednesday after Trump’s tweets were made. “That’s the reason why, next week, 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.”

The CDC has a number of recommendations for schools on how they can reopen safer, if their specific communities deem it possible to do so, including requiring masks for most students, keeping students and their desks safely distanced in the classrooms, and having only every other seat occupied on buses on their way to and from school, for example. Such moves would likely require the use of more resources, although Trump himself never mentioned in his social media posts which CDC policies he thought were too onerous to follow.

Asked about what guidelines Trump thought were too restrictive or expensive, Redfield mostly avoided answering the question, reiterating that his agency was issuing out guidelines, not requirements for schools to adhere to.

“It was intentionally non-prescriptive,” he added.