Leaders at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were blindsided this week when President Donald Trump announced that the agency could deploy teams to assist schools with safely reopening in the fall, a senior CDC official told CNN.
“My administration also stands ready to deploy CDC teams to support schools that are opening and schools that need help in safety and in order to safely reopen,” Trump said on Tuesday during a briefing.
The announcement left CDC officials scrambling this week to train-up staff to be able to deploy if they are called upon, the senior official said.
Trumps comments are the latest example of a breakdown in communication between the public health agency and the White House.
Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC Task Force regularly learned about assignments during presidential briefings, finding out in real time along with the public, a senior official said.
The CDC official added that the agency is expected to come up with a vaccine plan for schools in at least four states by October, even though there is no realistic expectation that a vaccine would be ready by then.
Trump’s comments were made on Thursday amid the White House’s release of eight new recommendations for US schools as they prepare to reopen.
The recommendations include ensuring that students and staff “understand the symptoms of COVID-19” and require “all students, teachers and staff to self-assess their health every morning before coming to school.” The recommendations also encourage the use of masks, but do not require students, teachers or staff to wear them. They also “require students, teachers and staff to socially distance around high-risk individuals,” however it’s unclear how schools will go about doing that.