Outgoing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky admitted Tuesday that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) worked with the CDC on its February 2021 school reopening guidance.
Republican Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup asked Walensky at a congressional hearing about the AFT providing suggestions to the CDC about keeping schools closed for a longer period of time.
“Did the AFT provide suggested edits to the CDC’s February 2021 school opening guidance, including a trigger to automatically close schools that, if implemented, would have kept more schools closed and kids out of the classroom?” Wenstrup asked. (RELATED: Calendar Reveals Walensky Frequently Met With Teachers Unions For COVID Guidance, Only Met Parents Once)
.@RepBradWenstrup: “Did the AFT provide suggested edits to the CDC’s February 2021 school opening guidance, including a trigger to automatically close schools that, if implemented, would have kept more schools closed and kids out of the classroom?”@CDCDirector Walensky: “Yes.” pic.twitter.com/ngWlSn7Qt0
— Americans for Public Trust (@apublictrust) June 13, 2023
“The AFT was interested in having closure triggers, that is my understanding, yes,” Walensky responded.
“So your answer is ‘yes,'” Wenstrup followed up.
“Yes, but they were not accepted, of course,” Walensky said. The White House announced Walensky’s resignation in May, effective June 30.
A series of emails released in October 2021 showed the AFT sent last-minute suggestions to the CDC guidance the day before it was officially publicized. CDC officials planned to provide the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) with the guidance before it was released to give them “time to digest,” the emails showed.
AFT president Randi Weingarten had a close relationship with Walensky and the pair texted frequently when the school reopening guidance was being crafted, texts released in June 2023 reveal. Walensky also communicated with NEA president Becky Pringle before and after the guidelines were released.
Wenstrup previously questioned Weingarten about her coordination with the Biden administration on school reopenings prior to Biden taking office. “What essentially happened, sir, was that we were talking to the Biden transition team before he was sworn into office,” Weingarten said.
When the CDC announced in January 2021 that in-person instruction was safe, the AFT labeled it “reckless and unsafe” for teachers and students.