News & Politics

CDC Guide for Reopening the Country 'Shelved' by Trump Administration

(Tracey Brown/University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP)

The Centers for Disease Control prepared a 17-page document giving detailed instructions to state and local governments, businesses, and churches how to reopen their communities following the coronavirus lockdown.

The report will not be released by the government as the administration has shelved it according to the Associated Press:

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.

It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Inexplicable? Not really. the CDC has sat on the sidelines throughout the entire pandemic. It’s been two months since the CDC even gave a briefing on the virus and the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, although a member of the White House virus task force, has been absent from most briefings.

From the beginning, the Trump administration has seen the coronavirus pandemic as a political problem.

The Trump administration has instead sought to put the onus on states to handle COVID-19 response. This approach to managing the pandemic has been reflected in President Donald Trump’s public statements, from the assertion that he isn’t responsible for the country’s lackluster early testing efforts, to his description last week of the federal government’s role as a “supplier of last resort” for states in need of testing aid.

It’s not surprising that Republican-led states understand approaching the problem from a federalism point of view and Democratic-led states did not. Hence you have liberal Democrats bitterly complaining that Washington isn’t doing “anything” to help them while Republican governors went about the business of managing the crisis on their own. Democratic governors didn’t want the political responsibility for managing the crisis in their states. They wanted to be able to blame Trump if things went badly.

The CDC guidelines for reopening were no doubt carefully crafted and amended as they made their way through layer after layer of bureaucracy. No doubt that all the “i’s” were dotted and “t’s” crossed. I’m sure they were very proud of the finished product.

But as a practical document, it was totally useless.

For example, the report suggested restaurants and bars should install sneeze guards at cash registers and avoid having buffets, salad bars and drink stations. Similar tips appear on the CDC’s site and a Food and Drug Administration page.

But the shelved report also said that as restaurants start seating diners again, they should space tables at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart and try to use phone app technology to alert a patron when their table is ready to avoid touching and use of buzzers. That’s not on the CDC’s site now.

See what I mean?

The CDC is doing its job; giving scientific facts and recommendations to political leaders. But while reopening the country should be science-based, the decision to do so and the act itself is political.

The people will tell us if it’s a success or failure and not pundits, commentators, or well-meaning bureaucrats.

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