CDC Removes Misleading School Guidance Following Select Subcommittee Inquiry
Washington, D.C. (November 17, 2020) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, issued the following statement after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), acceding to a September 30, 2020, request from the Select Subcommittee, removed misleading school reopening guidance from its website and announced plans to update the remaining CDC guidance on schools and the coronavirus that CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield conceded is “out of date”:
“Every aspect of our nation’s response to the coronavirus must be guided by the best available science—that is why I wrote to CDC Director Redfield urging him to revise misleading, politically influenced guidance on how the coronavirus impacts children and schools. I am pleased that, in response to this request, CDC has now removed two guidance documents unsupported by science and has agreed to update two more that Director Redfield concedes are ‘out of date.’ With infections rising dramatically across the country, it is critical that schools, teachers, and families have accurate, trustworthy public health information on the coronavirus.”
On September 30, 2020, Chairman Clyburn launched an investigation into reports of political interference in CDC’s school reopening guidance and called on CDC to “immediately revise CDC’s guidance so that it faithfully reflects the science—rather than the partisan political interests of the President.”
On October 21, 2020, CDC’s Deputy Incident Manager for the COVID-19 Response, Dr. Michael Beach, briefed the Select Subcommittee staff and acknowledged that CDC’s guidance did not reflect the current science on coronavirus risks to children and would be updated. Asked about the assertion in the July guidance that “children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus,” Dr. Beach said, “We don’t have enough data to be sure.”
In an October 23, 2020, letter to Chairman Clyburn, CDC Director Robert Redfield committed to revise three school guidance documents that he conceded were “out of date.” Approximately five days later, without public announcement, CDC removed from its website one of these three documents, entitled Preparing K-12 School Administrators for a Safe Return to School in Fall 2020. This document contained misleading information regarding the risk of children transmitting the virus.
On approximately October 29, 2020, CDC removed a fourth guidance document from its website, again without any public announcement. This document, issued in July 2020, was entitled The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall. Top White House officials had reportedly edited this guidance before its release—over the objection of CDC scientists—to claim inaccurately that children were at “low” risk of transmitting the virus.
CDC’s October 23 letter also provided new information the Select Subcommittee sought about “school mitigation teams” deployed by CDC to “respond to outbreaks, provide epidemiologic support, and bolster monitoring and evaluation of mitigation strategies employed at the school.” CDC reported that as of October 16, 2020, it had deployed at least 27 school mitigation teams to schools across the United States, including on tribal reservations. These mitigation teams have been deployed to early childhood centers, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions.