All Guidelines Are Subject to Review, Including for Coronavirus | Citizens Against Government Waste

All Guidelines Are Subject to Review, Including for Coronavirus

The WasteWatcher

Most of the country has been under government mandated stay-at-home orders.  However, as the infectious rates have declined, states are beginning to ease these restrictions.  In response, on May 14, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released its much clamored-for guidelines on how to safely open various establishments within communities , including schools.

These guidelines had already received attention, even before their official release.  The New York Times reported on May 7 that “a battle has erupted” between the White House and the CDC.  Apparently, the White House rejected the agency’s coronavirus reopening plan and “blocked” the draft guidelines from being publicized.  The White House said the drafts were “overly prescriptive” and “infringed on religious rights and risked further damaging an economy that Mr. Trump was banking on to recover quickly.”

The draft guidelines that were leaked to the New York Times were 27 pages long and certainly in a draft format.  Included were guidance for childcare programs; schools and day camps; employers of vulnerable workers; restaurants and bars; and mass transit.  Apparent suggested guidelines for communities of faith were also included in the draft, but these would only be approved based on agreement from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Department of Health and Human Services, and the White House.

Rather than report the discussion over these guidelines as being like every other agency-drafted document that is subject to routine review by the White House and offices under its jurisdiction, like OMB, to make sure they are consistent with current administration policy, The Times sensationalized a mundane occurrence.

The release of the draft guidance documents was also fuel for politicians to take unnecessary and politicized action.  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) attempted, and failed, to pass a resolution by a unanimous consent on May 13, stating “Americans learned that the Trump White House had blocked release by the Centers for Disease Control of a document that contained guidance for safely opening up the country.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patricia Murray (D-Wash.) added to the political bloviation in May 12 hearing “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.”  She said, “we recently learned that after experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent weeks developing a detailed guide to help our communities understand how to safely reopen when the time comes, the Trump administration tossed it in the trash bin for being too prescriptive.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) stated to CDC Director Dr. Redfield, that “this guidance that was developed by you and other experts was shelved by the administration, that it was withheld from states and the public because of a decision made by the White House.  So, my specific question is why didn't this plan get released?  And if it is just being reviewed, [when] is it going to be released?  Because states are reopening right now and we need this additional guidance to make the decisions.”

Dr Redfield reminded the senator that the CDC had developed a series of guidance documents already, that the current draft guidance in question was going through interagency review to make sure they “are more broadly applicable for different parts of our society” and expected them to be released soon.  He urged the Senator to tell his state officials to ask for guidance from the CDC if any of them need assistance on any circumstance.

It is ironic that when President Trump said he had total authority to reopen the economy on April 13, governors and legal experts pushed back on that notion, citing the 10th Amendment that all powers that aren’t specifically granted to the federal government belongs to the states, and these senators were among the President’s critics.

Three days later on April 16, the administration issued guidance to relax social distancing practices with “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” that allowed the states to start reopening in three phases, essentially leaving it to them to decide when to move forward based on their respective situation.

The senators who overreacted to the issuance of routine draft guidelines going through a normal review process can’t have it both ways, but they are unlikely to stop trying since their knee-jerk reaction is to object to everything the White House does, even when it is ordinary regulatory review, or a policy with which they might otherwise agree.  And they will not be the only critics who on the one hand want their governor to be in charge but on the other want the federal government to do everything.

The new guidelines released on May 14, 2020, are more simply designed than the draft that was released less than a week ago.  They are intended to be decision-making tools for mass transit systems, restaurants and bars, schools, workplaces, and other facilities to help them open safely.  Health officials in their states should know the conditions on the ground, the vulnerable populations the virus affects, and how to adopt social distancing to open safely.  The guidance documents tell the user to be “consistent with applicable state and local orders.”

The guidelines are not political, they are practical.  Senators Murphy, Murray, and Schumer should stop politicizing the process and get out of way as there will be more guidance and rapidly changing policies as the response to this unprecedented healthcare and economic crisis continues to unfold.