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CDC Took Cues from Teachers Union Over School Reopenings

'We are immensely grateful for your genuine desire to earn our confidence and your commitment to partnership...'

The nation’s largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, successfully lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to delay school reopenings, according to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

As the CDC was preparing to issue guidance advising all public schools to reopen fully in February, the AFT was lobbying the agency and other Biden administration officials to encourage schools to remain closed, according to the New York Post.

“Thank you again for Friday’s rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT,” AFT Senior Director for Health Issues Kelly Trautner wrote in one of the emails.

“We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document,” Trautner continued. “We believe our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents.”

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In later emails, Trautner thanked CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky for her “commitment to partnership” with the union.

“We are immensely grateful for your genuine desire to earn our confidence and your commitment to partnership,” Trautner said in an email to Walensky in February.

As a result of the AFT’s lobbying, the CDC released guidance that encouraged teachers “who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk for COVID-19” to work from home.

The CDC also stopped short of calling on schools to reopen, instead opting for color-coded charts that recommended districts in “red” zones with “high” risk of community spread to remain shut down. 

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Shortly after this guidance was released, the AFT praised the CDC.

“Today, the CDC met fear of the pandemic with facts and evidence,” the union said in a statement.

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