Politics

Teachers Unions Got Last-Minute Input On CDC School Guidance, Emails Show

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
Font Size:

America’s largest teachers unions got last-minute input on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) school reopening guidance, emails obtained by Fox News show.

The series of emails between American Federation of Teachers (ATF) and CDC officials reveal that not only did the ATF add a line to the guidance less than a day before its release, but the CDC also provided finalized copies of the guidance to major unions before the general public, Fox News reported Tuesday.

The email chain begins with ATF senior director of health issues Kelly Trautner emailing CDC director Rochelle Walensky on Feb. 11, the day before the guidance was to be released, according to Fox News. Trautner suggested the CDC add the following line to the guidance: “In the event high-community transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.”

Walensky then forwarded this request to Henry Walke, the CDC director of preparedness and emerging infections. The Fox-obtained emails show he replied, “Yes, will work with team.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky answers is seen during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to examine the FY 2022 budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky answers is seen during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to examine the FY 2022 budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

Walenksy then thanked Walke for sending an updated version of the guidance soon afterward. (RELATED: CDC Recommends Schools Open Fully Immediately, Says Vaccinated Teachers And Students Don’t Need Masks)

Further emails showed that CDC officials made plans to give major teachers unions such as the AFT and National Education Association (NEA) early copies of the guidance to give them “time to digest.”

“Greta and team will reach out to NEA/AFT this evening to set up a technical discussion tomorrow with both groups to talk through the CDC operational strategy,” CDC acting associate director for communications Christopher Jones wrote to Walensky on February 11. “Targeting 1130am so they have time to digest prior to the 2 pm release.”

“Feel free to make that offer when you talk to them this evening and say CDC will be teaching out later tonight to set it up,” he added.

“Perfect. Will do. Will try to reach them before I board. Thank you!” Walensky responded, according to emails obtained by Fox.

Further emails show that while CDC officials initially planned to provide the guidance to union officials at 11:30 a.m. on February 12–2.5 hours ahead of the 2 p.m. public release–the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) limited the early warning to just 15 minutes.

Thus, NEA president Becky Pringle and ATF president Randi Weingarten received the following email from Jones at 1:45 p.m. on February 12:

Hi Becky and Randi,

Thanks again for your continued partnership and input. Attaching a PDF version of the operational strategy that will post today (some formatting might change slightly when on the web). Also attaching a short fact sheet. Embargo lifts at 2pm. I know not much lead time, but wanted to send your way as soon as I was able.

Chris.

The whole exchange came roughly one week after Walensky had stated that vaccinating teachers was not a prerequisite for reopening schools. White House press secretary Jen Psaki contradicted that statement soon afterward, and Walensky herself later walked it back.