Trump administration blocks release of CDC guidelines for reopening safely: They'll 'never see the light of day'

Trump administration blocks release of CDC guidelines for reopening safely: They'll 'never see the light of day'
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield visited the NIH on June 12, 2018. In this image Dr. Redfield visits the Vaccine Research Center and learns about universal flu vaccine development. Dr. Anthony Fauci (r), Director of NIAID, accompanied the visit. Credit: National Institutes of Health

When the White House released its “Opening Up America Again” guidelines last month, a lot of people noticed that something was missing: details on how to do that safely. Now, the Trump administration has blocked the release of a detailed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 17-page “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework” was supposed to be published last Friday—but then, an unnamed CDC official tells the Associated Press, scientists were told it “would never see the light of day.” And it’s reportedly not because the document had errors or was incomplete, but because, with Donald Trump pushing reopening no matter what, the White House doesn’t want to release detailed guidance.

A “person close to the White House’s coronavirus task force” told the AP that releasing detailed guidance for opening specific areas of the economy is a “slippery slope,” supposedly because different areas of the country are affected differently by coronavirus. But the science isn’t different from place to place, even if the infection levels are, and the guidelines for safely reopening a restaurant in New York City and Albany, Georgia, should be the same. That’s an area where the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” guidelines left questions.

”You can say that restaurants can open and you need to follow social distancing guidelines. But restaurants want to know, ‘What does that look like?’ States would like more guidance,” the chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territory Health Officers told the AP. Those are blanks that the CDC’s “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework” could have filled in. The shelved CDC report called for restaurants and bars to avoid salad bars, buffets, and drink stations, to space their tables six feet apart, and to have sneeze guards at cash registers. Phone apps could be used to replace buzzers for people waiting to be seated. And it had similar guidance for schools, churches, summer camps, day care centers, and more.

If there’s one thing Donald Trump has made clear, though, it’s that he doesn’t want the public thinking about any of this in too much detail. “Hopefully that won’t be the case” that reopening will cause deaths to rise, he said Wednesday, but “It could very well be the case.” It will be the case, and he doesn’t want us thinking about how many deaths, or how directly they will be a result of poor reopening decisions.

Trump continues to pin his hopes on magical thinking—and it sounds like the “slippery slope” involved in releasing the more detailed CDC guidance is not the difference between what it takes to prevent coronavirus infection in San Francisco and Jacksonville so much as it is the difference between believing that “This virus is going to disappear,” as Trump said Wednesday, and understanding that it will take work to control it until there’s a vaccine or treatment.

“It’s a question of when,” Trump went on. “Will it come back in a small way? Will it come back in a fairly large way? But we know how to deal with it now much better.” We know how, to some extent … but his administration is busy suppressing the information, because it doesn’t like the answers.

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