schools

White House pressured CDC on reopening schools, officials say

Washington — Top White House officials over the summer pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to downplay the risk of the coronavirus among young people and encourage the reopening of schools, according to two former CDC officials who were at the agency at the time.

The New York Times first reported that White House officials, including aides in Vice President Mike Pence’s office and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, were involved in trying to circumvent the CDC to promote data that showed the spread of the virus was slowing. The former CDC officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CBS News that the information in the Times report was accurate.

Olivia Troye, a former adviser to Pence who worked on the White House coronavirus task force, told the Times that she was repeatedly asked by Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, to produce more data showing a decline in cases in young people. Troye left the White House in August and has since become a vocal critic of the president and the administration’s coronavirus response.

The Times also reported that Birx pushed the CDC to include data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency inside the Department of Health and Human Services, which said that extended school closures could affect children’s mental health and argued that transmission of the virus among family members was low. The Times obtained an email from Birx to CDC Director Robert Redfield asking him to incorporate the document as “background” in CDC guidance for reopening schools.

President Trump over the summer repeatedly argued that schools should be reopened for in-person learning. At an event in July, he said “we want to get them open quickly, beautifully, in the fall.”


NYC

White House pressured CDC on reopening schools, report says

Washington — Top White House officials over the summer pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to downplay the risk of the coronavirus among young people and encourage the reopening of schools, according to a former CDC official who was at the agency at the time.

The New York Times first reported that White House officials, including officials in Vice President Mike Pence’s office and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, were involved in trying to circumvent the CDC to promote data that showed the spread of the virus was slowing. The former CDC official told CBS News that the information in the Times report was accurate.

Olivia Troye, a former member of Pence’s staff, told the Times that she was repeatedly asked by Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, to produce more data showing a decline in cases in young people.

The Times also reported that Birx pushed the CDC to include data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency inside the Department of Health and Human Services, which said that extended school closures could affect children’s mental health and argued that transmission of the virus among family members was low. The Times obtained an email from Birx to CDC Director Robert Redfield asking him to incorporate the document as “background” in CDC guidance for reopening schools.

President Trump over the summer repeatedly argued that schools should be reopened for in-person learning. At an event in July, he said “we want to get them open quickly, beautifully, in the fall.”

Another former CDC official involved in writing the guidelines told CBS News that Birx was influential in shaping the message surrounding schools reopening, and pushed to focus on the risk factors involved for kids if they stayed

Former Pence Adviser ‘Appalled’ At Pressure White House Placed On CDC To Open Schools

KEY POINTS

  • New reports said the CDC faced pressure from the White House to downplay the coronavirus’ threat toward younger people
  • Former Pence adviser Olivia Troye said this was to help President Trump’s chances of reelection
  • She said some White House staff were told to go around the CDC to find information supporting Trump’s narrative about the pandemic

A former adviser for Vice President Mike Pence said reports were accurate that the White House pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage schools to reopen and downplay the threat coronavirus posed to children.

Olivia Troye said these efforts were meant to improve President Donald Trump’s chances of reelection in the November general elections.

As of Tuesday, the U.S. has 7.16 million confirmed cases and over 205,000 reported deaths from coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, this was an effort, you know, at times where I would get blindsided, where there would be junior staffers being tasked to find different data for charts to show that the virus wasn’t as bad for certain populations, ages or demographics,” Troye told CNN on Tuesday.

“I think you’ve seen from the beginning the President’s narrative has been ‘everything’s fine. Everything’s OK. Time to get back to normal. Let’s get the economy going again.’”

Troye’s comments come nearly two weeks after she endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and said she planned to vote for him in November.

The New York Times released its report on the mounting pressure on Monday as well, describing the efforts White House staff to encourage reopening.

The Times said several members of the coronavirus task force, including Dr. Deborah Birx, and Pence’s staff routinely asked CDC officials to produce reports showing coronavirus was declining among younger populations. In some cases, Pence had his chief of staff, Marc Short, and junior staff