The American Federation of Teachers, led by Randi Weingarten, appears to have lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep schools shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic and “even suggested language for the federal agency’s school-reopening guidance released in February,” according to a Saturday report from the New York Post, based on emails between the AFT and CDC.
“The powerful teachers union’s full-court press preceded the federal agency putting the brakes on a full re-opening of in-person classrooms, emails between top CDC, AFT, and White House officials show,” the Post reported Saturday.
The AFT, of course, spent $20 million to elect Democrats in the 2020 election cycle, and teachers unions have been instrumental, across the country, in delaying in-person learning and a return to classrooms following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust and provided to The Post,” the outlet noted. “The documents show a flurry of activity between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisors, and union officials — with Biden brass being looped in at the White House — in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines.”
Just days before the February 12th announcement, The Washington Post reported that CDC researchers, in an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) had concluded that schools could reopen safely, provided they took certain safety precautions like mandated social distancing.
“The CDC team reviewed data from studies in the United States and abroad and found the experience in schools different from nursing homes and high-density work sites where rapid spread has occurred,” the Post reported. “The review, which echoes the conclusions of other researchers, comes as many school districts continue to wrestle with whether and how to reopen schools and as President Biden makes a return to in-person learning one of his top pandemic-related priorities.”
Days later, the head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, noted that schools could reopen safely without teacher vaccination, so long as they practiced “universal masking.”
But the CDC’s guidance, released on February 12th, was less direct and did not make a universal judgment on whether schools could reopen, urging, instead, a “data-driven” response based on information about the spread of coronavirus in surrounding communities.
The CDC later admitted that “science” was not the sole driving factor in establishing its school reopening guidelines and that officials coordinated with “outside groups” to make its recommendations on the subject, per a report from The Daily Wire.
Now, the Post notes that those “outside groups” included the nation’s second-largest teachers union, which seems to have prevented the CDC from using the language it wanted: “that schools could provide in-person instruction regardless of community spread”
“’Thank you again for Friday’s rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT,’ wrote AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner in a Feb 1 email — which described the union as the CDC’s ‘thought partner,'” according to the Post.
“We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document,” Trautner continued. “We believe our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents.”
The AFT reportedly demanded that the CDC not make a blanket statement on reopening schools and that the CDC include language demanding accommodations for teachers “who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk for … COVID-19.”
“What seems strange to me here is there would be this very intimate back and forth including phone calls where this political group gets to help formulate scientific guidance for our major public health organization in the United States,” one medical expert told the Post. “This is not how science-based guidelines should work or be put together.”
Both the union and the CDC defended working together on the guidelines.