CDC coordinated with teachers unions on COVID guidance at 'unprecedented' levels: report

"They bypassed the science to put union bosses ahead of children."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

House Republicans are slated to release a report on Wednesday discussing the "unprecedented" levels at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coordinated with teachers unions to craft its school reopening guidance, despite earlier claims from the agency that such cooperation was routine and non political.

The report, which will be released by lawmakers that sit on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, was viewed exclusively by Fox News ahead of its release.

The Republican lawmakers wrote in the report that emails between the American Federation of Teachers (ATF), the White House, and the CDC showed the union’s "cozy relationship with the Biden administration’s political leadership at the CDC positioned the union to impose line-by-line edits" to the reopening guidance issued by the CDC.

This came despite the agency’s previous claims that it was "past practice to keep draft guidance confidential."

It was previously reported that emails obtained by Americans for Public Trust showed the AFT and the National Education Association, the two largest teachers unions in the country, had received a copy of the guidance before it was released to the public.

One day before the CDC released the guidance to the public, AFT's senior director of health issues, Kelly Trautner, emailed CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on February 11, 2021, requesting that the line "In the event high-community transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary," be added.

The emails showed that Walensky forwarded the request to director of the CDC’s Center for Preparedness and Response Dr. Henry Walke, who subsequently revised the guidance.

"The emails also revealed that CDC officials coordinated an early release of the final guidance to the AFT before releasing it to the public," Fox News reported.

The lawmakers’ report states that the Biden administration provided the teachers unions "unprecedented access to the policymaking process for guidance on re-opening schools."

"Documents and testimony show, however, that Director Walensky downplayed the degree to which CDC departed from past practice to allow AFT to affect the policymaking process. In fact, CDC allowed AFT to insert language into the Operational Guidance that made it more likely schools across the country would remain closed after February 2021," the report states.

The CDC has previously defended its talks with the unions, saying they are routine.

"As part of long-standing best practices, CDC has traditionally engaged with organizations and groups that are impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency," they stated.

The report will feature new testimony from Walke issued on February 18, 2022, which states that the level in which the CDC coordinated with the teachers unions was "uncommon," and that the CDC does not usually share draft guidances with those outside the agency.

The report also states that when questioned about the level in which the CDC coordinated with the unions, Walke was instructed by Biden administration lawyers to not answer.

"When Republican staff asked Dr. Walke questions to that effect, a Biden Administration lawyer instructed him not to answer," says the report. "Because lawyers for the Biden Administration prevented a key witness from explaining why the CDC allowed AFT to write key portions of its guidance for re-opening schools, there are still several unanswered questions. This matter should be investigated further."

The Republicans’ findings state that the ATF’s edits made to the guidance were intended to make it more likely that schools could close again for in-person learning.

In a joint statement issued to Fox News, Republican Reps. Steve Scalise and James Comer accused President Joe Biden of rewarding one of his biggest political donors while millions of children suffered dramatically from school closures, including loss of quality learning and mental health decline.

"The facts are clear: Biden’s CDC overrode routine practice to allow a radical teachers union that donated millions of dollars to Democrat campaigns to bypass scientific norms and rewrite official agency guidance," Scalise and Comer wrote.

"The damaging edits by union bosses effectively kept thousands of schools shuttered across the country, locking millions of children out of their classrooms," they said. "The Biden Administration abandoned medical science and replaced it with political science to reward one of their largest donors, harming millions of children in the process. They bypassed the science to put union bosses ahead of children."

"Millions of Americans are still outraged at what these Washington Democrats put their children through, and all because union bosses demanded they keep schools closed longer," they continued.

"America’s children are suffering, academically and mentally, because of the Biden Administration enabled school closures. Republicans will not rest until we uncover all the facts and hold everyone accountable who was involved in holding back millions of children from having equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream," they concluded.


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