President Donald Trump’s fresh efforts to undermine medical and scientific experts and his failure to ask the country to make the sacrifices that could quell the coronavirus are consigning America to a constantly worsening pandemic with no clear route back to health.
Trump recommitted to that strategy — which defies the example of nations that have at least temporarily beaten back the virus — by blasting the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on reopening schools on Wednesday as “very tough and expensive.”
Within hours, Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, said the CDC would issue new guidelines.
“The President said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough, and that’s the reason why, next week, the CDC’s going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward,” Pence told reporters.
The responses of the vice president and other top officials at a relentlessly upbeat White House task force briefing, which glaringly clashed with the reality of a new daily record of 60,000 new cases of the virus, underscored how the government is geared more toward appeasing an unbending President than giving an honest accounting of the crisis and taking steps that could defeat it.
Dr. Robert Redfield, who leads the CDC and walks a constant tightrope, often unsuccessfully, under fierce pressure from Trump, emphasized that the new guidelines should in no way slow Trump’s push to reopen all schools within weeks.
“I want to make it very clear that what is not the intent of CDC’s guidelines is to be used as a rationale to keep schools closed,” Redfield said, pledging to work with schools and officials to propose optimum and safe opening plans.
“It would be personally very disappointing to me, and, I know, my agency, if we saw that individuals were using these guidelines as a rationale for not reopening our schools.”
His comments came a day after Trump demanded that all schools reopen in the fall, then the President waffled when asked how that could be safely achieved given worsening conditions.
And they begged this question: What is the point of CDC guidelines if the conditions are either so lax that they are largely meaningless or cannot be used as a reason to keep schools closed if basic safety recommendations are not met?