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Trump accused of suppressing CDC warning that full school reopenings pose 'highest risk' of COVID-19 Spread

President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, left, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Stephan Monroe, associate director of the CDC, right, speaks with reporters during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday, March 6, 2020, in Atlanta. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The leader of one of the largest teachers' unions in the U.S. accused President Donald Trump over the weekend of "trying to bury" federal guidelines warning that fully reopening schools and universities in the fall poses a high risk of spreading Covid-19 and endangering the health of students, faculty, and parents.


A 69-page packet (pdf) of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention materials obtained by the New York Times and labeled "For Internal Use Only" cautions that the "more people a student or staff member interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread."

Last week, Trump complained on Twitter that non-binding school reopening guidelines offered by the CDC—which recommends that students maintain six feet of distance from each other and wear face coverings—are "very tough" and "expensive."

In an apparent attempt to mollify the president—who also threatened to cut off funding to schools that don't reopen—Pence said during a press briefing last Wednesday that the CDC plans to release new documents "giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward." CDC director Robert Redfield said in an interview the following day that the new documents would not alter the agency's existing guidelines.

During an interview Sunday morning on CNN's "State of the Union," DeVos repeatedly refused to say whether schools should follow the CDC's reopening guidelines and claimed "there's nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous."

The documents, many of which had already been posed online, warn that "full-sized, in-person classes" present the "highest risk" of spreading coronavirus compared to virtual courses and small classes in which students remain at least six feet apart at all times.

While it's "unclear whether Mr. Trump saw the document," the Times reported, "what is clear is that federal health experts are using a road map that is vastly different from what Mr. Trump wanted."

Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, slammed Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for recklessly pushing to reopen schools as federal experts privately warned of the severe risks of doing so without a clear safety plan.

"Trump suppressed a CDC report that concluded 'fully opening schools and universities remained the highest risk for the spread of coronavirus," Weingarten tweeted Saturday. "Trump, Pence, DeVos had this report and said the exact opposite. His intentional lies will endanger thousands."

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) ripped DeVos for offering "no plan" to safely reopen schools as "teachers, kids, and parents are fearing for their lives."

"You point to a private sector that has put profits over people and claimed the lives of thousands of essential workers," Pressley tweeted. "I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child."

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