May 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

White House coronavirus task force asked CDC to revise reopening guidelines

President Donald Trump calls on reporters during a news conference with White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx (L) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield

President Trump calls on reporters during a news conference with Dr. Deborah Birx and CDC head Robert Redfield nearby. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The White House coronavirus task force asked the CDC to revise a 17-page report that detailed specific guidelines for how local leaders should begin reopening cities and businesses, but never received a revised copy, sources familiar with the documents tell Axios.

The state of play: The guidelines — which a task force official says were never cleared by CDC leadership — are now being tabled for the foreseeable future.

  • The White House task force first saw the CDC report, which had been slated for release last Friday, after it was leaked to the press, according to the task force official.
  • The AP first reported that the Trump administration had shelved the CDC report and published a copy of it.

What we're hearing: A task force official said President Trump's guidelines for reopening that were released last month "made clear that each state should open up in a safe and responsible way based on the data and response efforts in those individual states."

  • But the CDC guidelines were "overly prescriptive," the official said. "Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn’t be the same guidance for urban New York City."
  • The official said the administration didn't "shelve" the report, but instead asked that the CDC revise its guidelines to "address concerns that it works for all Americans from rural areas to urban areas."
  • The report outlines recommendations for how different organizations — including schools, day camps, mass transportation centers, bars and restaurants, childcare centers, businesses, and religious centers — should begin reopening.

Between the lines: During the coronavirus crisis, the CDC has played a more behind-the-scenes role in the administration's response.

  • CDC Director Robert Redfield has been present at some White House briefings, but the administration's public response has mostly been handled by the task force — with regular appearances from Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci.

The bottom line: This latest spat is more evidence of the struggle between the CDC, which typically handles public health crises, and the White House task force, which the president has made clear will shift its focus to reopening the country.

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