Report: Birx, Others Pressured CDC on Sending Kids to School

Ex-aide to Mike Pence: 'You're exchanging votes for lives'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2020 10:35 AM CDT
Report: White House Pressured CDC to Downplay School Risk
Dr. Deborah Birx, right, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, speaks at a press conference along LSU interim President Tom Galligan, left, in Baton Rouge, La., on Wednesday.   (Travis Spradling/The Advocate via AP)

Top White House officials, including the coordinator of the coronavirus task force, pressured leaders at the CDC to downplay the risks of sending children back to school in the midst of a pandemic, the New York Times is reporting. The report cites current and former government officials, including a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, who says she was repeatedly tasked with getting the CDC to produce data showing a decline in coronavirus cases among children. (There have been 75,458 cases identified in children in the two weeks ending Sept. 24, a 14% increase, per NPR.) Olivia Troye says other staffers were told to seek out data that would support the White House position. "You're exchanging votes for lives," she tells the Times. President Trump had said, "You need to try to make it seem like everything's OK when in reality it's not," Troye tells CNN.

In a July 19 email, Dr. Deborah Birx asked CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield to incorporate a document from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration into CDC guidance. The document, stressing the long-term effect of school closures on children's mental health, claimed there were "very few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members" and that asymptomatic children "are unlikely to spread the virus." The proposed guidance the CDC returned was rejected by the mental health agency as "a recipe for schools to stay closed," per the Times. The "gist" of the agency's position was ultimately included in guidance issued July 23, the outlet reports, noting White House figures, including chief of staff Mark Meadows and senior adviser Jared Kushner, had the final say. (More coronavirus stories.)

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