Internal CDC Report Warned Fully Reopening Schools Remained 'Highest Risk' For Spread

by Julie Scagell
Little boy going to school with protective mask

The report was shelved and a new, less stringent plan was released by the CDC

Internal documents from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned K-12 school and university reopenings would be the “highest risk” for the spread of coronavirus, according to a New York Times report. The report was issued the same week Trump and his administration pushed for schools to reopen.

The Times released the CDC’s 69-page document marked “For Internal Use Only” and found “noticeable gaps” in all of the K-12 reopening plans it reviewed.

“While many jurisdictions and districts mention symptom screening, very few include information as to the response or course of action they would take if student/faculty/staff are found to have symptoms, nor have they clearly identified which symptoms they will include in their screening,” the report stated in a “talking points” section. “In addition, few plans include information regarding school closure in the event of positive tests in the school community.”

The report, which has yet to be officially released by the CDC, was meant for federal public health officials that are being sent to hot spots around the country to help local public health officials make informed decisions about reopenings during the pandemic.

In recent weeks, Trump has downplayed CDC guidelines around reopening schools. “I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools,” he tweeted. “While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”

Trump also threatened to cut federal funding if schools do not have in-person classes. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families,” he wrote. “May cut off funding if not open!”

During a press briefing a few hours later, Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would be issuing new guidelines on school reopenings, presumably less stringent.

“What it tells us is left to its own devices, the CDC can do a pretty good job in compiling a comprehensive document that shows the complexity of what institutions are facing,” said Terry W. Hartle, a senior vice president of the American Council on Education. “The good news is, this is very thoughtful and complete. The bad news is, it’s never been released.”

It is unclear whether the President viewed the CDC document, according to the Times.

The number of daily infections in the U.S. surpassed 60,000 for a third consecutive day on Saturday, after reaching a new record of more than 66,000 cases the day before. The U.S. has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, nearly 3.29 million, and 137,000 deaths.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.