ATLANTA – Federal health officials won't revise their coronavirus guidelines for reopening schools despite criticism from President Donald Trump, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. What they will do, he said, is provide additional information to help states, communities and parents decide what to do and when.
“Our guidelines are our guidelines,” Dr. Robert Redfield declared.
In draft CDC documents obtained by The Associated Press, the agency says there are steps that schools can take to safely reopen but that it “cannot provide one-size-fits-all criteria for opening and closing schools or changing the way schools are run.”
“Decisions about how to open and run schools safely should be made based on local needs and conditions,” the documents say.
They also include a checklist that encourages parents to carefully consider whether they should send their kids back to school in person or seek virtual instruction. Many districts nationwide are offering parents a choice of either mode of instruction. New York City, among other school districts, has announced that students will only return part-time in the fall.
That runs counter to Trump's messaging. He has been repeatedly pressuring state and local officials to reopen schools this fall, even threatening to withhold federal funds from those that keep teaching and learning remote.
Trump on Wednesday criticized the CDC's guidelines as “very tough and expensive” and said the agency was “asking schools to do very impractical things.” Speaking of CDC officials, he tweeted, “I will be meeting with them!!!” And Vice President Mike Pence said revised guidelines would be issued next week.
But in an appearance on ABC's “Good Morning America,” Redfield firmly stuck to the existing CDC guidelines.
“It's really important, 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 the upcoming reference documents in part would cover how to monitor for symptoms and use face masks in schools.
The CDC's current guidance recommends that students and teachers wear masks whenever feasible, spread out desks, stagger schedules, eat meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria and add physical barriers between bathroom sinks.