May 18, 2021

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The Centers for Politics and Unions

3 min read

American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten



Photo:

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had a bad pandemic, and it’s getting worse. The outfit that is supposed to offer credible, unbiased scientific guidance has been found again to be politicizing virus policy.

The New York Post reported over the weekend that the CDC consulted American Federation of Teachers (AFT) chief

Randi Weingarten

in writing its guidelines for school openings. The chronology of this non-scientific political intervention is even worse than it sounds.

In early February, new CDC Director

Rochelle Walensky

told reporters in a press conference that “schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated.” Oops. She forgot to consult the expert opinion of Ms. Weingarten, a major supporter of President

Biden.

After unions howled, White House press secretary

Jen Psaki

said Dr. Walensky was speaking in her “personal capacity,” not providing “official guidance” from the CDC. A couple of weeks later, the CDC rolled out official school reopening guidelines that recommended teachers be given “high priority” for vaccines and curiously echoed other union demands.

Now we know why. Emails obtained by the New York Post showed that the AFT union reviewed a CDC draft and made recommendations that union officials said would “strengthen the document.” The CDC adopted two of the union’s suggestions nearly verbatim.

This includes that the CDC guidelines be updated for new virus variants that cause high-community transmission and that work concessions be made for teachers “who have documented high-risk conditions” and “have a household member” with similar risks. The latter has been a major demand of unions as they have fought against reopening schools across the country.

The AFT acknowledged to the Post that it had been “in regular touch” with the CDC. Dr. Walensky’s spokesperson told the Post that the “CDC has traditionally engaged with organizations and groups that are impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency” in part to ensure “our recommendations are feasible.”

That must be news to most Americans. Recall the uproar when critics accused the Trump Administration of sidelining CDC career scientists because it elevated outside scientists who disagreed with the liberal lockdown consensus. Now the Biden Administration is letting a powerful Democratic interest group dictate virus guidelines.

As another example, consider the CDC’s eviction moratorium. The Cares Act in March 2020 imposed a 120-day moratorium on evictions in housing developments supported with federal funds. The CDC under President

Trump

later extended it through December and expanded it to all rental housing. Households making up to $198,000 qualified as long as they filled out a form claiming they had lost income.

Landlords who evicted tenants could be fined up to $250,000 or thrown in jail for a year. The CDC invoked the 1944 Public Health Service Act, which allows the agency to take measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between states. It postulated that people who get evicted might move in with family or friends and spread the virus.

There’s no limiting principle to what the CDC could order under this expansive interpretation of its powers. The Biden CDC has since extended its lawless and unscientific eviction ban through June, notwithstanding the relief Congress has passed, including $50 billion in rental assistance. But landlords still have to pay their mortgages even if renters don’t.

Two federal judges and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled against the CDC. “The broad construction of [the law] the government proposes raises not only concerns about federalism, but also concerns about the delegation of legislative power to the executive branch,” a Sixth Circuit panel ruled in March. The CDC is nonetheless continuing its eviction ban, and the case may go to the Supreme Court.

Meantime, the economic harm continues. Also continuing is the decline of the CDC’s reputation for honest public-health guidance.

Potomac Watch: Why is the entire cruise industry shut down in the U.S., while Europe and Asia are sailing again? Image: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the May 5, 2021, print edition.



2021-05-04 18:49:00

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