The United States is preparing for a second coronavirus outbreak after an apparent effort by the White House to mislead the public by burying Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to reopen the economy safely.
White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow on Friday told Bloomberg TV that the administration is not considering shutting down the economy again while the coronavirus task force is reviewing "contingency plans" in preparation for a second outbreak of the virus, reports Newsweek.
"One of the senior people in [the task force], now I asked that person what happens—right now the virus numbers are flattening out. That is a really good thing. That means we can reopen this economy. I asked this person 'What happens if we get a jump back up in virus numbers?"' Kudlow said. "And the response was simply 'Look—we won't have to re-shut down because first of all we know more, we have more experience, second of all we are much better equipped with the right tools.'"
White House officials have nixed up a CDC guidance paper on reopening the economy despite CDC Director Robert Redfield and other health experts trying to release the paper, according to an Associated Press story on Friday, citing multiple emails between several key figures.
Redfield was said to have shared the guidance, along with several "decision trees" to establish reopening plans, with government officials including Jared Kushner and the advisors to President Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway and Joseph Grogan as early as April 10. The emails also included members of Redfield's fellow coronavirus task force Dr Deborah Birx and Dr Anthony Fauci.
"We plan to post these on CDC's website once approved. Peace, God bless r3," Redfield reportedly wrote in an April 24 email to Birx and Grogan, which included an attachment of the guidance document and was signed with reference to the three "Rs" in Redfield's initials.
Before the guidance document leaked, the AP reported that CDC officials, who had been given anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the press, said the health agency had hoped to release the guidance by May 1, the day Trump targeted to reopening some companies.
On 30 April, CDC workers were allegedly told by their managers that both the text and the guide trees would never "see the light of day".
On May 1, emails revealed that a CDC worker was told "we would not even be allowed to post the decision trees. We had the team (exhausted as they are) stand down," according to the AP.
The White House has insisted that CDC leaders did not clear the "overly prescriptive" guidelines contained in the document.
"Issuing overly specific instructions—that CDC leadership never cleared—for how various types of businesses open up would be overly prescriptive and broad for the various circumstances states are experiencing throughout the country," a White House spokesperson told Newsweek in a statement on Thursday. "Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn't be the same guidance for urban New York City."
During a Friday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany suggested that Redfield had not seen the guidelines, which she said were currently going through an "editing process" and would be released at a later date.
"I would ask you what's the definition of CDC guideline, is it something the CDC director has actually seen? I would endeavour to say 'yes,'" McEnany said. "Is it something that a rogue CDC employee leaks to you guys? No, those aren't CDC guidelines, those are guidelines in draft form that a rogue employee has given you."
The White House reportedly ordered that the CDC to send them the guidelines again after Thursday's initial AP report claimed that the administration had buried them, although the set of guidelines are now said to no longer include suggestions concerning religious services.
Like McEnany, Birx has said that the guidelines are still in the process of being edited. The doctor also denied that the administration had been attempting to block their release.
"Those are still being worked on. No one has stopped those guidelines. We're still in editing," Birx told CNN on Thursday night.