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White House effort to circumvent CDC’s school-opening guidance undermines health and safety

Date: Jul 09 2020

Contact: Media Relations 

Statement from APHA Executive Director George C. Benjamin, MD

The Trump administration’s reported pressuring of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise their school reopening guidelines, coupled with the threat to withhold funding against school districts declining to reopen on schedule, wrongly makes educators, students and parents political pawns and could have deadly consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Trump and Vice President Pence are insisting that schools must open in the fall, even as public health experts, including the CDC, urge caution and restraint. Against the advice of health care experts, they are leaning on the CDC to issue new guidance for schools to open after Trump criticized earlier recommendations as “very tough and expensive guidelines.” The CDC has been saying that schools must open cautiously and follow science-based guidelines such as physical distancing, physical barriers and cleaning to help thwart COVID-19.

We strongly oppose any undermining of public health and safety.  Frankly, we are stunned at the administration’s lack of any forethought or concern about planning and implications for schools.

All of us want brick and mortar schools to open and welcome back students, but they must do so with public health and safety as top considerations, as the CDC has maintained. Only then can education flourish for every student.

The Trump administration has no justification for overruling science-backed information that the CDC has initiated in school opening plans. All of us want a red traffic light to turn green at an intersection, but we don’t just drive through recklessly and risk our own lives and those of others.

We are at a delicate crossroads with COVID-19. We must proceed with extreme caution, especially in opening schools. We have no other option.


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.