The head official for the Centers for Disease Control has bucked President Donald Trump’s insistence on relaxing federal guidelines for school reopenings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an appearance on Good Morning America on Thursday, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the agency will provide more “reference documents” to guide school districts but would not change its current guidelines, which recommend desks be placed six feet apart, students to wear masks, and the installation of physical barriers like sneeze guards where necessary.
"Right now, we're continuing to work with the local jurisdictions to how they want to take the portfolio of guidance that we've given to make them practical for their schools to reopen," Redfield said on the show.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have criticized the CDC guidelines as too “costly” and “too tough” as they’ve pushed for schools to reopen this fall despite spiking increases in COVID-19 cases in many states.
Pence said Wednesday the CDC would change its guidelines, but Redfield reiterated his support for the current CDC guidelines: "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 said.
The New York Times reported Friday that an internal CDC memo has warned that “fully reopening schools and universities remained the 'highest risk' for the spread of the coronavirus.”
The internal memo also pointed out gaps in reopening plans especially on dealing with an outbreak in a school community: “While many jurisdictions and districts mention symptom screening, very few include information as to the response or course of action they would take if student/faculty/staff are found to have symptoms, nor have they clearly identified which symptoms they will include in their screening,” the Times reported the memo said. “In addition, few plans include information regarding school closure in the event of positive tests in the school community.”
New York City school officials announced this week that they plan to have a blended learning model of part remote, part in-person instruction for the next school year. They, too, have not yet released details on how they plan to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19 in a school community.
The city's plan must be approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo.