CDC guidelines shelved by Trump administration spell out far stricter road map to reopening
(CNN) -- Guidelines to reopen the US drafted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that were shelved by the Trump administration are far more strict and detailed than the White House's own road map toward a return to normal, a CNN review found.
On Wednesday, CNN obtained the document, which expands on a 17-page draft report that CNN reported on last week. A senior CDC official told CNN at the time that the White House does not plan on implementing the agency's guidelines, despite the full report being the result of a request from the White House's coronavirus task force, specifically Dr. Deborah Birx.
The Associated Press first reported on the full CDC guidance.
The 68 pages of public health surveillance and modeling examine how Americans can safely and slowly return to normal life. While some of the advice is consistent with the White House's "Guidelines: Opening Up America Again," the document contains additional details on what is needed for schools, businesses, communities of faith, mass transportation and travel to resume successfully.
Based on the guidance, "no one who is reopening meets the criteria for reopening," a senior CDC official told CNN.
One major discrepancy between the White House and CDC guidelines surrounds nonessential travel. In the White House plan, nonessential travel can resume as early as Phase 2. The CDC, however, recommends that nonessential travel be avoided until Phase 3, and even then suggests it "may be considered" and advises caution.
The White House has spelled out a three-phase approach to reopening the country's economy from stay-at-home orders meant to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. The first phase suggests schools that are closed should remain so and employees who are able to telework should keep working from home. Large venues, including some restaurants, can operate under strict social distancing protocols. Gyms can open as long as they maintain social distancing guidelines, but bars should remain shuttered. Phases 2 and 3 gradually decrease the recommended restrictions.
President Donald Trump has urged the country to reopen and has encouraged governors to make moves toward lifting restrictions on their states despite many of them not meeting benchmarks set by the White House coronavirus task force. Public health professionals have repeatedly stated that reopening the country too soon could lead to a second wave of coronavirus cases and result in more deaths.
As of Wednesday night, more than 84,000 Americans had died from Covid-19 and more than 1.39 million cases had been reported in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The CDC draft also provides various outlines for how to monitor reopening, and prevent and contain potential outbreaks that come during that process. The CDC gives communities details on what to look for regarding potential flare-ups while they implement mitigation techniques.
However, as CNN reported last week, the Trump administration does not plan to use the CDC's guidance. An administration official told CNN last week that CDC leadership hadn't seen the draft before it leaked and there were concerns from the task force about the drafted guidance. That administration official told CNN that the CDC's guidance was "overly prescriptive" and did not fit in the "phases" outlined by the task force.
A senior administration official added that the draft document was the subject of heated internal debate, but ultimately members of the task force felt it was too specific and might not be helpful as nationwide guidance.
The shelved guidelines have driven another wedge between the White House and the CDC, which typically leads public health efforts during a pandemic.
During testimony in front of a Senate committee on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said his agency's guidance would be released soon but offered no exact timing.
A CDC spokesman declined to comment on the document.
Draft guidelines give specific guidance for different sectors
The draft document included specific guidance for six categories: child care programs; schools and day camps; communities of faith; employers with vulnerable workers; restaurants and bars; and mass transit administrators. For each category, it notes reopening in phases, CNN reported last week.
The CDC guidelines also include updated language on faith-based organizations. Those additional details came after officials at the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights asked for the CDC to ease social distancing recommendations for those groups, encouraging federal health officials to let churches congregate, an official involved told CNN.
The official said that guidance was one point of contention with the administration.
According to the official, HHS officials "made" them take out a reference to Communion plates, despite a scientific review that confirmed one of the ways people can contract the virus is by drinking out of a Communion cup. Health officials outside of HHS, but still involved in guidelines discussion, raised concerns about this request.
One source familiar with the matter said that this is aligned with the President's agenda and complained that the original wording in the CDC document went against that agenda by singling out churches. This official said the guidelines needed to be more broad -- giving the example of "no one should share a cup" versus "don't share a Communion cup."
Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, told CNN that the agency does not comment on internal deliberations, but added that "protections against religious discrimination aren't suspended during an emergency. This means the federal government cannot single out religious conduct as somehow being more dangerous or worthy of scrutiny than comparable secular behavior. HHS has a duty to instruct the public on how to stay safe during this crisis and can absolutely do so without dictating to people how they should worship God."
The guidelines spell out additional suggestions for restaurants, child care programs and schools on serving meals.
Some suggestions for restaurants in various phases of reopening include limiting the size of parties dining together to ensure social distancing and considering options for dine-in customers to order ahead of time to limit the amount of time spent in the establishment
Child care programs and schools are encouraged to serve meals in classrooms instead of cafeterias and to close communal areas like auditoriums.
Public transportation was included in the report. One of the guidelines suggested by the CDC was that buses should close every other row of seats.
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