July 10, 2020 -- A day after Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would issue new guidelines on school reopenings, the CDC director said the agency would be providing extra information but not actually revising its guidelines.
"Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid basically communities in trying to open K-through-12s," CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said Thursday on Good Morning America. "It's not a revision of the guidelines; it's just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance we put forward."
Redfield didn't provide details when pressed about which parts of the CDC guidelines would have additional information. He said the guidelines were “non-prescriptive” and that local school officials could made their own decisions about how to reopen.
Redfield's comments further confused the issue of how to safely open schools during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and appeared to contradict Pence, who on Wednesday said the CDC would change its school reopening guidance.
“We don't want the guidance from CDC to be a reason why schools don't open,” Pence said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing Wednesday. “I think that every American, every American knows that we can safely reopen our schools. ... We want, as the president said this morning, to make sure that what we're doing doesn't stand in the way of doing that.”
President Trump has been pushing hard for schools to reopen, even as more than 60,000 new cases were reported Wednesday in the United States -- a record for a 24-hour period.
Hours before the task force briefing, Trump bashed the school reopening guidelines the CDC issued on May 19.
“I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” Trump wrote on Twitter. In another tweet, Trump said that he might cut federal funding to school systems that don't reopen this fall.
In the May 19 guidance, the CDC offered ideas for how to keep students safe in the classroom.
Schools should place desks at least 6 feet apart and desks should face in the same direction, the guidance said. Communal gathering areas, like auditoriums, should be closed and lunch should be served in classrooms instead of cafeterias. Staggered starting times should be considered. All staff and most children should wear face masks.
Speaking at the task force briefing, Redfield said the CDC had issued guidance, not requirements, on how schools should reopen.
“It would be personally very disappointing to me and, I know, my agency if we saw that individuals were using these guidelines as a rationale for not reopening our schools,” he said.
Trump said Tuesday that he would pressure governors to reopen the schools, and that some governors didn't want to for “political reasons,” CNN reported.
"They think it's going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed," Trump said. "No way."
The reopening of schools during the pandemic poses unique, first-time challenges for school systems, parents and students. Many students haven't been in a classroom since March. Some school systems offered online learning, but that opportunity was not always available for low-income students.
States like Virginia are planning phased reopenings that would blend classroom attendance with social distancing and online learning.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics says that students need to be in the classroom most of the time, not just for education but for their mental and physical health.
"The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020,” the group said on its website.
I’m a little confused because above he says they’re not being revised but just adding to them. And here we say he didn’t say which parts were being changed. Just feels like we’re saying two different things.