CDC says it won’t change school reopening guidelines but will offer more direction

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Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

Joshua Roberts | Bloomberg | getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon issue additional safety guidelines on reopening schools this fall, but the agency doesn’t plan to change its original recommendations that President Donald Trump criticized as too tough and expensive, CDC Director Robert Redfield said Thursday.

Redfield said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” the additional documents don’t ease the CDC’s recommendations. He said the agency is providing more information for communities, care givers and schools on how to reopen safely.

Vice President Mike Pence indicated Wednesday the agency would soften its recommendations. But when asked about the possibility, Redfield said there would be no changes.

“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.

Under the current guidelines, the CDC recommends schools enforce social distancing rules, which some have said are unattainable in a school setting.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he disagreed with the CDC’s “tough” and “expensive” guidelines for reopening schools and that he would meet with agency officials to discuss the impracticality of the requirements.

Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that do not resume in-person classes this fall. 

Pence said Wednesday the CDC will “be issuing five new documents” next week.

“As the president said today, we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence told reporters at a White House coronavirus task force briefing. “That’s why the CDC will be issuing more guidance going forward, because we know each school system has unique capabilities and different facilities.”

Redfield, while asserting the importance of getting children back in school, said the guidelines are not requirements. He said the CDC is prepared to work with schools and districts to develop individual procedures that work for them while keeping safety in mind.

Redfield also said the guidelines should not be used as a rationale to keep schools closed.

“The purpose of those guidance is to help local jurisdictions open their schools,” Redfield said. “It’s not a question of open their schools versus public health. My position is the public health of the students of this nation is best served by getting schools reopened.”

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