The decision to archive the detailed report by top U.S. disease control experts to reopen communities during the coronavirus pandemic was made at the highest levels in the White House, according to internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press.
The files also show that after the AP reported Thursday that the guidelines document had been archived, the Donald Trump government ordered the approval of key parts of the document to be expedited.
A series of emails show that the nation’s top public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spent weeks working on guidelines to help the country address the health emergency. public, to see later how his work was canceled by political positions without offering many explanations.RELATED
The report titled “Directions to Apply the Open America Again” Program, was researched and written to help religious leaders, businessmen, educators, and local and state authorities as they begin to revive the country. It included detailed “decision trees” or diagrams with arrows that local authorities could use to plan the difficult decision to revive the region or maintain the measures.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Friday that the documents had not been approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield. The new emails show that Redfield had given them the go-ahead.
These new CDC guidelines – a mix of previously released advice and new information – had been endorsed and promoted by the highest levels of its management, including Redfield. Despite this, the government filed them on April 30.
On April 10, Redfield, who is also part of the White House task force on coronavirus, e-mailed the guidelines and decision trees with Trump’s closest circle, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, adviser Kellyanne. Conway and Joseph Grogan, assistant to the president in national politics. Recipients also included Drs Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, and other members of the group.
Three days later, senior CDC officials sent the 60-plus page report with attached flowcharts to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a step that is often only occur when agencies seek final White House approval for documents for which they have already been approved.
The 17-page version of the report later published by the AP and other media was only part of the document forwarded by the CDC, and was directed specifically at facilities such as bars and restaurants.
The AP obtained a copy of the full report on Friday. That version is a more universal set of tiered guidelines, “Steps for All Americans in Every Community,” and is intended to advise communities as a whole to test, trace contacts, and other key infection control measures.
On April 24, Redfield e-mailed the documents to Birx and Grogan, according to a copy seen by the AP. Redfield asked the two recipients to review them so that the CDC could publish the guidelines. Attached to Redfield’s email were files with guidelines and corresponding decision trees – including one for meatpacking plants.
“We plan to post them on the CDC website once they are approved. Paz, god bless you, r3,” wrote the director, whose initials are R.R.R.
The comments emailed by Redfield contradict the White House statement Thursday that it had not approved any recommendations yet because CDC management had not given them the green light.
Two days later, on April 26, CDC was still unaware of the government, according to its internal communications. Robert McGowan, the CDC chief of staff who guided the process through OMB, sent a message asking for information. “We need it as soon as possible so we can publish them,” she wrote in a message to Nancy Beck, an OMB employee.
Beck replied that he was awaiting review by the White House Directors Committee, a group of senior officials. “They need to be approved before they can move forward. CB directors are in contact with the working group so the working group should be aware of their status, ”Beck wrote in his response to McGowan.
The following day, on April 27, OMB’s Satya Thallam sent the CDC a similar response: “The guidelines for the reopening and the decision tree documents went to a committee of directors of the West Wing on Sunday. We have not received information on the specific date for your consideration. “
“However, I convey your message to them: They have given strict and explicit instructions that those documents have not yet received authorization and cannot be published anymore – this includes related press releases or other communications that could advance the content or timing of the guidelines, “he added.
According to the documents, the CDC continued to ask for days about the guidelines that officials hoped to make public on May 1, the day Trump had designated to reopen some businesses, according to a source who remained anonymous because he did not have authorization. to talk to reporters.
On April 30, CDC documents were permanently archived.
The agency had not received any specific criticism from either the White House Steering Committee or the coronavirus task force in days, so they again requested updated information on the process.
“The guidelines should be more cross-cutting and say when it can be reopened and how to keep people safe. Fundamentally, the Task Force approved it for further development, but not for publication, “Quinn Hirsch of the White House Office of Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) wrote in an email to the agency the CDC reports to, the Department of Health and Human Services.
CDC staff working on the guidelines decided to try again.
The government had already released its Plan to Open America Again, and time was ticking. CDC employees thought that if they could publicize their revival tips, they would help communities do so with detailed expert help.
But hours later on April 30, CDC Chief of Staff McGowan told staff that neither the council documents nor decision trees “would ever see the light of day,” according to three officials who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
According to the emails, the next day, May 1, a CDC employee was told that “we would not even be allowed to publish decision trees. We made the team (exhausted as it is) retreat. “
CDC’s recommendations were archived. Until the 7th of May.
That morning, The Associated Press reported that the Trump executive had scrapped the guidelines, although many states had begun allowing companies to reopen. Following publication, the White House called the CDC and ordered them to resubmit all decision trees, except for those related to churches.
An email obtained by the AP confirmed that the agency forwarded all the information later Thursday, just hours later.
“Attached, by request made earlier in the day, the decision trees previously sent to both the OIRA and the CB Working Group, except for the religious communities,” said the message. “Please let us know if / how / when can we proceed from there. “