The following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat.
WASHINGTON DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Representative Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Vice Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, sent a letter to Robert R. Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, requesting all correspondence between their agencies and the White House regarding guidance for educational settings, in order to determine if the CDC’s recently updated guidelines for reopening schools were influenced by political pressure from President Trump, Vice President Pence, or other administration political appointees.
“President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary DeVos’s repeated attempts to insert politics into public health decision making have created confusion, undermined trust, and needlessly polarized this critical issue,” wrote the lawmakers. “Local education leaders, and the public at large, need to know the extent to which guidance issued by your agencies may have been influenced by political pressure in order to understand whether it can be treated as an objective, expert source for their own decision making.”
As schools across the country are weighing difficult decisions about whether and how to safely reopen their buildings for in-person instruction this fall, President Trump and Vice President Pence have exerted significant political pressure on schools and public health officials to reopen in person. President Trump has tweeted, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” and criticized the CDC’s initial guidance for schools as “very tough and expensive.” Last week, under significant political pressure, the CDC released updated agency guidelines for school reopening, including a new statement entitled, “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall.” The White House reviewed this statement and reportedly substantially edited at least one of the updated documents.
Last week, President Trump threatened to condition billions of dollars in federal aid on schools reopening in person and warned that he would redirect the funding to private or religious schools if they do not – effectively forcing public schools to choose between following local public health guidelines or cutting staff and services. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany reinforced the Trump Administration’s position by saying, “the science should not stand in the way of this.” Secretary DeVos has echoed President Trump’s call for schools to disregard public health advice and perpetrated medical misinformation by stating that “kids are actually stoppers of the disease.” Global public health and education experts have confirmed that children can contract and transmit COVID-19.
The appearance that public health advice is being shaped by political pressure threatens to undermine the CDC’s credibility when it is needed most. Sen.Warren and Rep. Levin are requesting correspondence and drafts related to these updated guidelines to determine if there has been any political interference into public health advice.
Senator Warren and Rep. Levin requested a response to their letter no later than August 11, 2020.