The White House on Friday echoed Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, who said she's still working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on detailed reopening guidelines for states during the pandemic even though a White House task force official said the guidelines wouldn't be issued because those decisions are up to local officials.
"We're working with the CDC on a whole series of products, from how to improve community mitigation, what to do about contact tracing, how to improve surveillance, and certainly these more detailed guidelines about child care and camps. Those are still being worked on. No one has stopped those guidelines. We're still in editing," she told CNN Thursday night.
Asked about the apparent disconnect at her briefing Friday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany blamed the leak of the draft guidelines on a "rogue employee" and denied they had been blocked, saying they were "still in the editing process."
A task force official on Thursday had defended the decision to not issue the step-by-step guidance earlier, saying that "overly specific instructions" beyond the already-issued CDC guidelines on a phased reopening would be counterproductive, arguing 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 told ABC News Thursday.
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Birx, when pressed on CNN whether science or political and religious beliefs were guiding the process, said, "Well, I like to believe that I'm a scientist, and I've been working with the CDC on the edits. It was more about simplification to really make sure that both the American people as well as public health officials understand the guidelines. And then really working on a whole area on surveillance for asymptomatic individuals. That was a very new element that we felt very strongly had to be included because of the ever-increasing evidence of asymptomatic spread."
Given the revelation Thursday that a personal valet to President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, Birx dodged a question about whether masks should be worn in the White House complex.
"Certainly there are people who wear masks on the White House complex. I'm very scrupulous and I know the meetings we have are focused on social distancing. Sometimes in meetings in the Oval it's more difficult and we concentrate on this. We all are very concerned about protecting others as well as ensuring we don't become positive ourselves," she said.
Trump has since tested negative and said he and Vice President Mike Pence will undergo daily testing from now on.