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Former Heads of the CDC Pen Scathing Open Letter to Trump

"No president ever politicized science the way Trump has."

A young supporter wears a Trump 2020 mask at Trump's Tulsa rally.

Four former directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have penned an op-ed calling out Trump’s failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher, and Richard Besser took the president to task via the Washington Post, where they described Trump and politicians like him as major hurdles to fighting the spread of COVID-19.

The article calls out this administration’s politicization of scientific fact, which has led to over 130,000 deaths and nearly 3.5 million cases of the virus. The directors wrote, “The four of us led the CDC over a period of more than 15 years, spanning Republican and Democratic administrations alike. We cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence.”

The piece focuses on the Trump administration’s call the reopen schools, a party line parroted by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And while the CDC has released guidelines on how to reopen schools safely, those guidelines have largely been mocked and ignored by Republicans. Furthermore, Trump and DeVos have threatened to withhold funding for schools that don’t reopen, something which neither of them have the power to do.

It’s a classic Trump gambit: threaten with an action he can’t do, make headlines for wild claims, and ignore the real problem. It’s how he’s handled this outbreak for months now.

The article reads, “Through last week, and into Monday, the administration continued to cast public doubt on the agency’s recommendations and role in informing and guiding the nation’s pandemic response. On Sunday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos characterized the CDC guidelines as an impediment to reopening schools quickly rather than what they are: the path to doing so safely. The only valid reason to change released guidelines is new information and new science — not politics.”

They continued, “Unfortunately, their sound science is being challenged with partisan potshots, sowing confusion and mistrust at a time when the American people need leadership, expertise and clarity. These efforts have even fueled a backlash against public health officials across the country: Public servants have been harassed, threatened and forced to resign when we need them most. This is unconscionable and dangerous.”

And while the White House has stopped COVID-19 press briefings and is largely ignoring and insulting Dr. Anthony Fauci, the facts remain bleak. “Sadly, we are not even close to having the virus under control. Quite the opposite, in fact.” The idea that we can reopen schools, which are a haven of contagion on the best days, is laughable. And Trump and DeVos continue to demand that schools reopen, with no plan or alternative to the CDC’s guidelines.

They add, “Trying to fight this pandemic while subverting scientific expertise is like fighting blindfolded.”

(via Washington Post, image: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.