President Donald Trump and some of his political allies have focused very closely on plans for reopening the economy via lifting the social distancing guidelines that have been implemented in attempts to stem the spread of the Coronavirus, but according to a new report from the Associated Press, the Trump administration has abandoned a 17-page report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that outlines steps to reopen with actually effective safety precautions in place. In the AP’s description, the document includes “step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places,” but it’s been “shelved.”
The AP grimly explains:
‘It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official… The Trump administration has been closely controlling the release of guidance and information during the pandemic spurred by a new coronavirus that scientists are still trying to understand, with the president himself leading freewheeling daily briefings until last week.’
It’s not immediately clear why exactly the administration may have sought to clamp down on the guidelines, although the move may be steeped in the desire from the president and his allies to essentially wish public health concerns out of existence. One person described as close to the Coronavirus task force claimed that the fact that “the virus is affecting various parts of the country differently” has weighed on the group’s decision to largely refrain from overly specific recommendations.
Trump has behaved as though even the suggestion for strengthening the U.S. Coronavirus response capacity constitutes some kind of unconscionable affront against his public image. To that end, he’s sought to control the flow of information, and amidst his demands for attention, the CDC hasn’t even held a routine Coronavirus-related press briefing in almost two months and counting. Although CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has participated in the White House’s Coronavirus task force, he’s not been among the most publicly visible figures.
Dr. Howard Koh, who worked as a public health official in the Obama administration during the swine flu outbreak, commented:
‘CDC has always been the public health agency Americans turn to in a time of crisis. 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.’
The guidelines included in the dismissed CDC report are not just procedurals. Without effective safety measures in place, reopening the economy could lead to even more Coronavirus cases and deaths, and the University of Washington is already projecting that the U.S. ends up with over 134,000 Coronavirus deaths total.
The dismissed CDC report includes guidelines for the reopening of establishments including schools, restaurants, summer camps, churches, day care centers, and other places. Some of the specific steps included in the document are, by all appearances, not available from other government sources. For example, the report insists that restaurants “should space tables at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart and try to use phone app technology to alert a patron when their table is ready to avoid touching and use of buzzers,” the AP explains. These steps, like many others in the report, could help make the calls for social distancing actually actionable for localities struggling to implement safe economic reopening plans.