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CDC to revise school reopening guidance

Announcement follows Trump tweet threatening to cut off federal dollars for schools that don’t open in fall

Vice President Mike Pence speaks as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos listens during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on July 8.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos listens during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on July 8. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release updated guidelines for reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vice President Mike Pence announced Wednesday, after President Donald Trump said he disagreed with guidance from his own administration for doing so.

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Trump threatened to cut off federal funding for schools if they do not open this fall and said he disagreed with the CDC’s “very tough & expensive guidelines.”

Speaking alongside the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Pence said he’d spoken with Trump about the issue and the administration hoped to partner with school districts to work toward returning students to the classroom.

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“We don’t want the guidance from CDC to be a reason why schools don’t open,” he said. “We want to partner with states, with local education officials, with governors, with local health officials, to find a way to meet their needs to open up.”

“I think the president’s statement this morning was simply reflective of that desire,” Pence added.

The CDC has released some guidance for schools to consider as they make plans, although Director Robert Redfield and other administration officials say they should not be taken as a reason not to reopen. That guidance suggests students and teachers wear masks, students stay 6 feet apart from each other, have plenty of cleaning supplies and protective gear on hand and not have students sharing objects.

“Our recommendations to open these schools are really based on the sound public health and safety in health and children,” Redfield said. “Clearly we know a lot, and I think it’s important that we don’t react emotionally but we act based on data.”

It was the second day in a row the administration publicly focused on how to safely reopen schools, but the new information for schools — some of which are set to open a month from now — was scant, as officials say they are emphasizing a return to the classroom.

“Whether it’s testing, PPE, or other resources that we stand ready to provide those resources to the states and we reiterated that once again to the governors,” Pence said when asked about specific plans to ensure students’ safety.

Earlier in the press briefing, Pence noted officials had begun to advise health care workers to begin using best practices to preserve and reuse personal protective equipment, which health care workers have reported a shortage of throughout the pandemic.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a tweet Trump did not care whether schools reopen.

“Because if you did, instead of ignoring public health experts, you would provide schools with the resources they need to re-open safely — which as a former preschool teacher is something I do care about a lot,” she wrote.

The committee held hearings earlier this summer about reopening K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

New York City, the nation’s largest school district, announced Wednesday it would reopen schools in the fall through a blended approach, meaning that students would be in the classroom a few days a week and learning remotely the other days.

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