Trump administration pressured CDC to play down risks of reopening schools: report

Top officials at the White House pressured leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to downplay the risk of the coronavirus to children as President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau intends to wrap up count on Oct. 5 despite judge’s order Top House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents New Yorkers report receiving ballots with wrong name, voter addresses MORE‘s administration pushed to reopen schools this fall, according to a new report. 

Citing documents and interviews with current and former government officials, The New York Times reported Tuesday the push included an effort to find data suggesting the pandemic was weakening and the coronavirus did not threaten children. 

A former member of Vice President Pence’s staff, who has since resigned, told the Times she was asked on more than one occasion by Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, to convince CDC leaders to find and present proof that the virus has little effect on children. 

The new Times report comes on the heels of a CDC study this week reporting teenagers are twice as likely to contract coronavirus as younger children. Separately, a study commissioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association found a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases among children in recent weeks. 

Earlier this summer, the CDC was forced to revise its guidance for school reopenings after Trump pushed back on them, saying they were too “expensive” for districts and “tough.” 

“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence said at a news conference in July. “That’s the reason why, next week, CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.”

On Monday, NBC News reported CDC Director Robert Redfield was overheard on a phone call disparaging Scott Atlas, a new member of the White House coronavirus task force, whom he accused of feeding Trump bogus science about the pandemic. 

“Everything he says is false,” Redfield said of Atlas. 

Neither the White House nor the CDC immediately responded to a request for comment. 

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The Health 202: The Trump administration is urging schools to reopen with help from rapid coronavirus tests

President Trump announced yesterday from the White House Rose Garden that his administration is shipping 150 million rapid diagnostic tests to states. The money can be used to test people at K-12 schools, nursing homes, home health-care workers and historically Black colleges and universities, along with however else states want to use it. The administration had previously announced the deal to purchase the tests from Abbott Laboratories but provided more details about where the tests will be directed and how they can be used.

“In the coming weeks this will be more than double the number of tests already performed,” Trump said, noting that around 100 million coronavirus tests have been conducted in the United States since the start of the pandemic. 

“The support my administration is providing would allow every state on a regular basis to test every teacher who needs it,” he added.

Vice President Pence urged governors to send the tests to K-12 schools.

One hundred million of the tests are going to states, which will receive a supply based on their population size and can use the tests wherever governors see fit. 

“Given the extraordinary capacity we have in testing today, we expressed a hope to all the governors today they would particularly use them to open up America’s schools and keep them open,” Pence said.

The rapid antigen tests, which are the size of a credit card, don’t require samples to be shipped away to labs. Instead of taking days or weeks to process, they deliver results in 15 minutes after an individual swabs their nose and places the sample in a few drops of testing chemicals.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar:

Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, demonstrated the test before guests and media assembled in the Rose Garden. He said the United States now has the capability to process 3 million coronavirus tests a day, half of them rapid antigen tests.

Fears about young children rapidly spreading the virus haven’t yet materialized.

It’s just about a month into the academic year and cases are likely to rise throughout the world during the winter months but there have been some early encouraging signs that schools aren’t top breeding grounds for coronavirus infections.

“Public health experts have found little evidence that the virus is spreading inside [school] buildings, and the rates of infection are far below what is found in the surrounding communities,” Laura Meckler and Valerie Strauss reported. “This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they chart the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year.”

Brown University researchers found low levels of infection among students and teachers, after working with school administrators to track coronavirus cases. They found just 0.23 percent of students had a confirmed or suspected case of the coronavirus over a two-week period in September. Among teachers, it was 0.49 percent.

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