Weeks after President Trump tweeted messages to “Liberate” various states like Michigan, whose governor has come under fire for imposing some of the most draconian ‘stay at home’ and lockdown measures nationwide, the White House has shelved a detailed Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guide providing directives for opening up the country again.

The AP obtained a copy of the unreleased report, which further comes after the administration’s own “Opening Up America Again” — though the new CDC unpublished report is said to be more specific and detailed. AP describes:

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.

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.

That this hasn’t been cleared for public release either by the White House or CDC leadership underscores the continuing debate and struggle between those wanting a “scientifically accurate” one-size-fits-all centralized policy for reopening vs. Trump’s desire to leave specifics to the states, given the pandemic has impacted various regions of the country differently.

For example, the South has been far less impacted than predictions in March suggested, while some states in the central parts of the country have chafed at what many see as the dangerous trend of the entire country’s fate being determined by hard-hit cities and areas on the East and West coasts, especially the tri-state area.

“We’ve consulted individually with states, but as I said, it’s (a) governor-led effort. It’s a state-led effort on … which the federal government will consult. And we do so each and every day,” the White House spokesperson said in a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.

But the administration has come under severe criticism for not making CDC recommendations easily available in the form of centralized information or daily briefings, preferring not to federalize what could be perceived as a blanket policy. The AP summarizes the new CDC document’s guidelines as follows:

The rejected reopening guidance was described by one of the federal officials as a touchstone document that was to be used as a blueprint for other groups inside the CDC who are creating the same type of instructional materials for other facilities.

The guidance contained detailed advice for making site-specific decisions related to reopening schools, restaurants, summer camps, churches, day care centers and other institutions. It had been widely shared within the CDC and included detailed “decision trees,” flow charts to be used by local officials to think through different scenarios. One page of the document can be found on the CDC website via search engines, but it did not appear to be linked to any other CDC pages.

And further, it contains details recommended by scientists which are not currently found on any official CDC web pages:

For example, the report suggested restaurants and bars should install sneeze guards at cash registers and avoid having buffets, salad bars and drink stations. Similar tips appear on the CDC’s site and a Food and Drug Administration page.

But the shelved report also said that as restaurants start seating diners again, they 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. That’s not on the CDC’s site now.

Chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Dr. Marcus Plescia, explained the controversy over release of the guidelines to the AP further: “You can say that restaurants can open and you need to follow social distancing guidelines. But restaurants want to know, ‘What does that look like?’ States would like more guidance,” he said.

Still, CDC officials are said to be working “behind the scenes” in getting as much of their recommendations as they can to state and local officials, as the ‘information battle’ and inter-admin debate over reopening continues.


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