The Trump administration has made it clear that their focus is to reopen the country as quickly as possible, despite the guidelines that were recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Trump has released the “Opening Up America Again” guidelines for businesses, restaurants, churchs, schools, and more that explicitly ignore the CDC’s recommendations for a more cautious approach.
Ignored CDC guidance
The Trump administration will not implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 17-page draft guidance for reopening America. The shelved document entailed guidance on how to reopen the country with detailed precautions, such as phases for reopening.
A CDC administration official said that CDC leadership had not seen the Trump administration’s “Opening Up America Again” document before it was posted.
The reopening guidance was described by one of the federal officials as a “touchstone document” that was to be used like a blueprint for other CDC teams who are creating the same type of instructional material for other facilities.
The guidance provided more detailed suggestions beyond the reopening guidelines the administration had put forth last month, including specific suggestions for six categories: child care programs; schools and day camps; communities of faith; employers with vulnerable workers; restaurants and bars; and mass transit administrators. For each category, the draft document notes reopening in phases.
You can read the CDC’s complete unedited 17-page leaked draft here.
Healthcare professionals’ response
“CDC has always been the public health agency Americans turn to in a time of crisis,” said Dr. Howard Koh, a Harvard professor and former health official in the Obama administration during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. “The standard in a crisis is to turn to them for the latest data and latest guidance and the latest press briefing. That has not occurred, and everyone sees that.”
Health professionals are calling out the Trump administration for picking and choosing from the CDC’s recommendations. For example, the Trump report suggested restaurants and bars should install sneeze guards at cash registers and avoid having buffets, salad bars, and drink stations. But the ignored CDC report also said that as restaurants start seating diners again, they should space tables at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart and try to use phone app technology to alert a patron when their table is ready to avoid touching and use of buzzers.
“States and local health departments do need guidance on a lot of the challenges around the decision to reopen,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “You can say that restaurants can open and you need to follow social distancing guidelines. But restaurants want to know, ‘What does that look like?’” The plans suggested by Trump’s guidelines are not enough.
President Trump’s response
“I want to go back to where it was, that’s where we’re going to be,” stated President Trump. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the president has emphasized his desire to quickly reopen the American economy despite numerous of the most respected public health officials’ urgences for a more cautious approach.
The White House’s initiative is to leave it to the nation’s governors to implement their own guidelines.
The Trump administration made the decision to not publish the CDC’s report due to the “overly specific” instructions that did not apply to every state. An administration official added an example: “Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn’t be the same guidance for urban New York City.”
Healthcare and government friction
“The government blatantly ignoring science and the CDC’s guidance are parts of the ongoing friction that is taking place between the top U.S. health agency and the White House,” an agency official said. The CDC is trying to get its recommendations implemented at the state level via state agencies.
The White House’s own “Opening Up America Again” guidelines released last month were more vague than the CDC’s unpublished report. They instructed state and local governments to reopen in accordance with federal and local “regulations and guidance” and to monitor employees for symptoms of COVID-19. The White House guidance also included advice developed earlier in the pandemic that remains important like social distancing and encouraging working from home.
Still working hard to fight COVID-19, CDC scientists, like those who produced the guidance for “Opening Up America Again,” are working to get information to local governments. “The agency still employs hundreds of the world’s most respected epidemiologists and doctors, who in times of crisis are looked to for their expertise,” said former CDC director Tom Frieden.
The American people have proven their respect and allegiance to the CDC’s wisdom, as the CDC’s coronavirus website has had more than 1.2 billion clicks.