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CDC delays release of school reopening guidance

Questions about going back to school
Answering teachers' questions about going back to school this fall 05:27

The Centers for Disease Control is delaying the release of updated guidance on the safe reopening of schools as the country deals with a spike of the coronavirus. The guidance was originally supposed to come out this week. 

Now, a CDC spokesperson says the full guidance "will be published before the end of the month," and the material will contain resources and information for schools and families on working toward "safely opening schools this fall."

Vice President Pence said earlier this week the guidance would be a series of five different documents that would further clarify the CDC's initial recommendations. Issued in March, those guidelines offered a nine-page checklist for educators to help determine schools' general readiness for reopening, daily and weekly readiness, and plans on what to do if someone gets sick. It urged schools to educate students about handwashing and social distancing and to purchase cleaning and disinfecting supplies.

A CDC staffer said the documents are not being delayed or blocked for political reasons; they are just being vetted through what he referred to as a typical inter-agency clearance process. "That process just takes time," the source said.

The Trump administration does not believe the CDC's recommendations should prevent schools from reopening. President Trump tweeted earlier this month, "I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things."

He didn't specify what he meant, but the guideline that students remain socially distanced in classes appears to be a condition that's an obstacle for schools. Asked about this specifically, Pence said Tuesday the president had said "we just don't want the guidance to be too tough."

"We don't want the guidance from CDC to be a reason why schools don't open," Pence said. But he conceded "there may be some states and local communities that, given cases or positivity in that community, may adjust to either a certain set of days or certain limitations — and we'll be very respectful of that."

Mr. Trump has insisted schools must reopen for in-person learning full-time or risk their federal funding. Mr. Trump tweeted in early July, "Schools must be open in the Fall. If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding? It won't!!!"

Under the CARES Act, $13.3 billion has been appropriated by Congress to support education efforts in states amid the pandemic. Pence said the administration would work with lawmakers and "we expect there'll be additional support there."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar noted other ways to keep children safe in schools include "keeping kids in the same classroom versus changing classes, avoiding large gatherings and doing activities outside whenever possible." He said Tuesday the administration would soon be releasing guidance on the tools available to reduce COVID-19 risks, and how schools can use measures like masks effectively.

At the same time, Azar expressed optimism about a promising treatment for COVID-19 that could be available as soon as late summer or early fall. The government just signed a $475 billion agreement with Regeneron to manufacture "hundreds of thousands of doses" of an antiviral cocktail that may be effective in both treating and preventing COVID-19 infection. 

Sara Cook contributed reporting.

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