Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told by the White House that the agency's detailed guidance on reopening local economies would "never see the light of day," according to an Associated Press report published Thursday.
The guidance was set to be released last Friday and provided specific advice for local officials and business owners as many states begin to reopen. It covered safety protocols that should be in place before restaurants, childcare facilities, and other venues can begin operating as normal again.
Evidently preferring that the public rely on the White House's more vague guidelines, the Trump administration shelved the 17-page report, which was then provided to the AP by CDC scientists on the condition of anonymity.
The White House's actions represent "one more instance of this administration undercutting experts for its own political benefit," wrote Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
The CDC's experts put together detailed step-by-step guidance for localities on how and when to reopen, but the Trump administration has shelved it. One more instance of this administration undercutting experts for its own political benefit.https://t.co/nol3ecw4Hx
— Noah Bookbinder (@NoahBookbinder) May 7, 2020
Public health workers expressed anger over the sidelining of the nation's top experts on epidemiology by an administration which has been pushing for more than a month to reopen the economy as quickly as possible, against CDC advice.
I am furious! My friend @ashishkjha wanted to know why the CDC wasn't leading?
Well,now we know.
That's gonna go real well, folks. https://t.co/UYp5waau9o
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— Megan Ranney MD MPH (@meganranney) May 7, 2020
If you've been wondering what's going on at the CDC read this. They've been working. They're work is being ignored. Shelved. 45 doesn't want science to guide reopening. https://t.co/QGU03mV70U
— Barbara Glickstein (@BGlickstein) May 7, 2020
The CDC's "Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework" is divided into sections, providing protocols for restaurants, workplaces with medically vulnerable employees, places of worship, and other establishments and public venues.
The guidelines recommend that any business or public building which reopens must be prepared to shut down again in the event of new Covid-19 cases in the area—a recommendation not included in the White House's "Opening Up America Again" guidance published last month.
"45 doesn't want science to guide reopening."
—Barbara Glickstein, public health nurse
The CDC also included advice for restaurants and other businesses regarding maintaining distances of six feet between customers, while the White House wrote only that large venues including movie theaters and restaurants should "operate under moderate physical distancing protocols."
According to the New York Times, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last week called the CDC document "overly prescriptive."
The Trump administration likely shelved the document, wrote former Obama administration official Richard Stengel, because the "White House does not want to be accountable, and [the] guidelines would make them so."
The White House guidance says states and localities should only reopen if they have seen a 14-day decrease in the number of documented Covid-19 cases, but as David Wallace-Wells wrote in New York magazine Thursday: "That is not the case for the U.S. as a whole: On May 6, there were 23,841 new cases reported; on April 28, there were 22,541 new cases reported; on April 23, the number of new cases reported was just 7,588."