The Associated Press reported Thursday that CDC scientists anticipating the release of their 17-page “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework” were told by members of the Trump administration that the data “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official who spoke with the outlet on the condition anonymity.
Despite the CDC report being blocked from official public release, the AP obtained a copy of the guidance through a separate anonymous CDC official.
The detailed document divides sites subject to reopening into separate categories, such as child care programs, schools and day camps, restaurants and bars and communities of faith. Guidance is also provided for employers with workers particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus due to age or underlying conditions like diabetes, heart disease, asthma and hypertension.
Each category listed is provided a series of steps and subphases they should generally undertake. “Specific industries may require more stringent safety precautions,” the federal public health agency noted.
An individual close to the White House Coronavirus Task Force also spoke to the AP anonymously and claimed that higher-ups in the CDC failed to obtain proper clearance for the document’s release.
“CDC has always been the public health agency Americans turn to in a time of crisis,” Dr. Howard Koh, who was a health official in then-US President Barack Obama’s administration during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, told the AP. “The standard in a crisis is to turn to them for the latest data and latest guidance and the latest press briefing. That has not occurred, and everyone sees that.”
However, methods during the current federal government response to an outbreak have retreated from tradition. Though CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, his appearances have been scarce at the group’s briefings.
US President Donald Trump’s approach to the global pandemic has recently hinged on the White House’s March estimate of somewhere between 1.5 million and 2.2 million COVID-19 deaths in the US, in the event that the country did not enact social distancing measures.
Even at the time of the projection, leading public health experts did not put much confidence in it. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described the death toll as a “moving target.”
Speaking to reporters and other attendees of a White House presidential recognition ceremony on May 1, Trump asserted that the US would “hopefully” see fewer than 100,000 lives lost from the novel coronavirus.
The US president has managed to acknowledge these American deaths, but has quickly placed blame on China, which he says could have stopped COVID-19 from leaving the confines of its city of Wuhan. Despite the deaths thus far, Trump has been calling for Americans to get back to work and for states to start easing novel coronavirus-related restrictions.
According to a much more recent model on possible US COVID-19 fatalities from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the country’s lifting of all executive orders, lockdowns and closures could lead to some 350,000 American deaths by the end of June alone.
With over 7,750,000 people tested for COVID-19 in the US, more than 1,230,000 cases of the highly contagious disease have been reported, along with at least 73,573 associated deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 190,000 cases of recovery from the novel coronavirus have been observed in the country.