Newly released text messages show that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep schools closed in February 2021.
Both of the major teacher’s unions personally were texting then-CDC Director Rochelle Walensky as the agency was putting together a scientific analysis of reopening schools during the coronavirus. The CDC was making a key change that allowed schools to stay closed and appeased the unions.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten texted Walensky saying that she had heard a “leak” from The New York Times about what was in the CDC’s upcoming guidance, and expressed concern that it was “at odds with [their] discussion.” This took place on February 11, 2021.
“They are running with a full speed ahead angle” for reopening schools, Weingarten wrote in the text. She said the Times sent her a copy of the internal draft guidance that said, “At any level of community transmission, all schools can provide in-person instruction.”
“Hmmm. Argh,” Walensky wrote to the union honcho.
The next day, Walensky’s agency released guidance that was different. It said, “All schools have options to provide in-person instruction.” That allowed school districts to stay closed while still saying they were following CDC guidelines. “Middle and high schools in virtual only instruction unless they can strictly implement all mitigation strategies and have few cases,” it added.
The texts, which were obtained by the Fairfax County Parents Association through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that AFT President Randi Weingarten texted CDC Director Rochelle Walensky a day before the CDC released its guidance on school reopenings. In the text, Weingarten expressed concern about the language of the guidance, which she said was “at odds” with what she had been told by Walensky.
Walensky responded to Weingarten’s text by saying that she would “take a look” at the guidance. The next day, the CDC released its guidance, which recommended that schools remain closed in areas with high levels of COVID-19 transmission.
‘Thank you, friend’: Texts reveal chummy relationship between Biden’s CDC chief and teachers union bosses https://t.co/fcTcCnhAgF
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) June 3, 2023