Trump White House won't issue detailed CDC guidelines for states, businesses on reopening

The CDC had drafted guidance but the administration says it's up to states.

May 7, 2020, 1:48 PM

As President Donald Trump publicly cheers on efforts to reopen the country and economy, the White House has decided against issuing guidelines drafted to give states and business owners detailed instructions on how to safely do so amid the pandemic, multiple administration officials confirm to ABC News.

While the administration foregoes issuing the further guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many states are already moving ahead with reopening plans without meeting the threshold criteria set by the administration’s already-issued reopening guidelines, which call for a two-week downward trajectory in cases within a 14-day period.

Even as much of the country sees an increase in reported cases, President Trump has grown increasingly eager for states to move forward with reopening, saying long-term stay-at-home orders are unsustainable.

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A task force official defended the decision, saying that "overly specific instructions" beyond the already-issued guidelines on a phased reopening would be counterproductive and noted that the onus is on the states to make case-by-case decisions they see as best for their community.

"On April 16, President Trump released guidelines for opening America up again. Those guidelines made clear that each State should open up in a safe and responsible way based on the data and response efforts in those individual states. Issuing overly specific instructions for how various types of businesses open up would be overly prescriptive and broad for the various circumstances States are experiencing throughout the country," a task force official said.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Gov. Kim Reynolds, R-Iowa, in the Oval Office of the White House, May 6, 2020, in Washington.
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Gov. Kim Reynolds, R-Iowa, in the Oval Office of the White House, May 6, 2020, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP

The official further noted that the guidelines were never cleared by CDC leadership.

The Associated Press first reported the story.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioned the White House motives.

“I think that the way this has been handled is most unfortunate, because first of all, they had guidelines, which were weak, but nonetheless guidelines, and then the president said you don't even have to honor them, and then we find out now that there was a CDC report that had much more comprehensive guidelines, and they buried it in the White House,” she said.

The now-shelved guidelines were drafted with the aim of offering detailed, step-by-step advice for how to go about safely reopening restaurants, daycares, and other public spaces to supplement the broader administration guidelines issued last week in outlining a phased approach to reopening.

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had recently signaled to governors that further guidance was in the works about how to open businesses, schools, and places of worship.

PHOTO: Centers for Disease Control campus
The Centers for Disease Control's Tom Harkin Global Communications Center is shown in Atlanta.

But even as the guidance has been under consideration in recent weeks, it has always been an open question whether they would in fact be issued, because an official familiar with the process said some in the administration more formalized federal guidance would not be constructive since the administration had already decided to put states in control of the process.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that the guidelines already issued had already specific recommendations for businesses looking to reopen.

"Well, in the phased approach, there are some recommendations for how, for instance, restaurants should reopen and the distancing that's required. And as you go through the phases, that distancing is shrunk and there are other mechanisms that are outlined for restaurants and movie theaters and sporting venues. So I would argue that our phased approach does take that into account," she said when asked about the status of plans to issue more detailed guidance," she said.

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