Despite the Biden administration's promises to "follow the science" when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, recent developments have shown otherwise. Newly released documents show a rather intimate relationship between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a powerful teachers union that was found to have influenced recent policies on school reopening.
Documents obtained by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust and furnished to the New York Post revealed just how the AFT lobbied the CDC and had some of their recommendations adopted into the policies on school reopening.
These documents showed conversations and discussions between leaders of both organizations, including Dr. Rochelle Walensky and the AFT union's officials, as well as the White House's Carole Johnson, coronavirus testing coordinator, and Will McIntee, associate director of public engagement.
The documents revealed the activities between the CDC and AFT right before the policies on school reopening were announced on February 12. In the documents, AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner described the union as CDC's "thought partner" and thanked them for a "rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance" and for the health authorities' "openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT."
The documents reveal how Trautner and her team "reviewed" the "draft guidance document," which they provided "initial feedback" to "strengthen the document." She claimed that the teachers' "experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents."
The AFTs lobbying proved to be successful, as the policies on school reopening not only reflected their suggestions, it even included some of their revisions verbatim.
AFT president Randi Weingarten told Politico in February after the new policies on school reopening were released, "The science has been evolving. It's not a political calculation, it's based on trying to make the science work."
CDC backed up the AFT at the time, which in hindsight hinted at a close relationship between the two. Former acting CDC director Rich Besser said, "You can take science and reach a number of different policy conclusions and policy directions that are different, but are still true to the science."
According to Breitbart, the Biden administration committed to the "follow the science" ideology, with the President claiming that CDC has "provided the best available scientific evidence on how to reopen schools safely." However, the AFT did not appear to present any scientific facts or studies to support their lobbying, something that concerns Dr. Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Ghandi, who called the CDC and AFT's exchange "very, very troubling," commented that the "very intimate back and forth" between the CDC and AFT is "strange" and that it is highly questionable as to why a "political group gets to help formulate scientific guidance for our major public health organization," specifically for policies on school reopening.
Dr. Gandhi warned, "This is not how science-based guidelines should work or be put together."