Four Former CDC Heads Slam Trump’s Policy on Re-Opening Schools in WaPo Op-Ed

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Four former heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come out against President Donald Trump’s policy on re-opening schools.

Writing in an op-ed published in The Washington Post, former CDC directors Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan and David Satcher, as well as former acting CDC director Richard Besser, took the president and political leaders to task for “attempting to undermine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

“As the debate last week around reopening schools more safely showed, these repeated efforts to subvert sound public health guidelines introduce chaos and uncertainty while unnecessarily putting lives at risk,” they wrote.

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The authors note that CDC guidelines have not been altered “no matter the state and no matter the politics.” They point out it is not “unusual for CDC guidelines to be changed or amended during a clearance process that moves through multiple agencies and the White House. But it is extraordinary for guidelines to be undermined after their release. Through last week, and into Monday, the administration continued to cast public doubt on the agency’s recommendations and role in informing and guiding the nation’s pandemic response.”

“One of the many contributions the CDC provides our country is sound public health guidance that states and communities can adapt to their local context — expertise even more essential during a pandemic, when uncertainty is the norm,” they continue, adding: “We cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence.” They unequivocally condemn the backlash against public health officials as “unconscionable and dangerous.”

On the matter of reopening schools, the op-eds authors are firm: It cannot “happen equitably without additional federal and state resources to ensure that every school district — no matter the Zip code — can take the necessary measures to protect children, teachers and staffers.”

“Black, Latino and Native American communities have suffered disproportionately during the first six months of the pandemic,” they write. “We cannot let this same tragedy unfold this fall in our schools. The CDC’s guidance is a call for all of our nation to work together so as many schools as possible can reopen as safely as possible. This will mean wearing masks correctly, increasing distance — including by closing bars and restaurants in many places — and tracking and stopping the spread of the virus by supporting patients and protecting contacts.”