What happened: During a White House coronavirus taskforce briefing, Vice President Mike Pence ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to rewrite their school opening guidelines for reasons that appeared to be primarily political. Under this pressure, the CDC issued new school guidelines that emphasized the importance of in-person learning while downplaying the potential health risks associated with catching or spreading the novel coronavirus. According to one federal official, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials that wrote up the new guidelines cut off direct communication with CDC experts during the process because they did not agree with what the CDC experts were saying.
Why it matters: In the midst of this pandemic, it vital that schools have access to the best available scientific information when deciding on the best ways to protect the health and safety of their students, parents, teachers, and other school staff. By sidelining a previous set of CDC guidelines and ordering a less scientifically-rigorous set of guidelines, the Trump administration undermined one of the major ways that CDC scientists are helping people make decisions about how and in what way they should attend school. This action, which elevated political concerns over public health, could have enormous and disastrous health consequences for the entire nation.
Learn more about how the CDC was sidelined by the White House and was pressured to issue school opening guidelines that downplayed the risks of COVID-19.