Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield clarified Thursday that the agency would not be revising their guidelines, but instead offering “different reference documents” for local governments and school districts to review as they begin to determine whether they can safely reopen schools this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Redfield, on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, said he wanted to “clarify” the CDC’s guidelines.
“Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid communities that are trying to open K-12 schools, reference documents for parents, reference documents for schools to monitor symptoms, reference documents for face masks, and for how to evaluate and monitor,” Redfield said.
He added: “Its not a revision of the guidelines, but it is to provide additional information to help schools.”
Redfield’s comments came after President Trump on Wednesday said he disagreed with the CDC’s back-to-school guidance, calling it “impractical.” Later Wednesday, at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would be “issuing new guidance next week” to schools.
Redfield, during the same briefing, said that the CDC would put out a series of “different additional guidelines” that they would put out “to help open safely.”
During his interview with “Good Morning America,” though, he responded to the president calling his guidelines “impractical."
Redfield said that the CDC “provides guidelines, not requirements,” and that “the purpose of the guidance is to help local jurisdictions to open schools.”
“It’s not a question of opening schools versus public health,” he said. “Students are best served by getting schools reopened.”
He, again, confirmed the CDC was not making revisions to their guidelines at this point, saying: “Right now, we’re continuing to work with local jurisdictions on how they want to take the guidance to make practical on how they can reopen.”
Redfield said some of the guidance includes keeping students six feet apart, wearing face coverings and “looking at changes in schedule.”
He noted that some schools were concerned about social distancing, while others were concerned about face masks or rotating schedules.
“These decisions are local decisions,” he said. “We are prepared to work with any school on how they can take this guidance and do it in a way that is comfortable for them.”
Redfield added that the guidelines “are intentionally non-prescriptive.”
“We put out a spectrum of strategies, schools are committed to reopening safely, just as the CDC is,” Redfield said.
Redfield’s comments come amid a week of discussions on whether schools will be able to reopen this fall, even as cases of the novel coronavirus surge in states across the country.
Trump, during an event with first lady Melania Trump on Tuesday, said his administration would “very much put pressure” on governors to reopen schools in their states in the fall.
Trump pointed to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which was represented at the event and repeatedly has urged officials to let students be physically present at school.
The AAP has publicly advised, “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
Meanwhile, Thursday morning, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended Redfield, saying he "made clear that the CDC never said schools should close down" to begin with.
"We will provide help and assistance," she said on "America's Newsroom." "We need to move ahead, let's figure out how its gonna be done safely."
She added: "It's not a matter of if but how."