First Grade teacher Dianna Accordino with the disinfectant mist sprayer for her classroom. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
First Grade teacher Dianna Accordino with the disinfectant mist sprayer for her classroom. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Former White House official says political staff pushed for a “snazzy, easy-to-ready document” showing lower infection rate among children.

Top White House officials pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to minimize the risk of sending students back to school this fall, according to a report from the New York Times

Officials in the White House also tried to find alternate data than what the CDC was using, in an effort to show the virus was less dangerous to children and young adults. According to the report, the changes to the school reopening guidelines were overtly political. 

Documents and interviews show the White House spent considerable time pressuring public health experts to follow President Donald Trump’s talking points. For months, Trump repeatedly called on schools to open for in-person instruction, and for states to reopen businesses. The Trump administration has continued to insist that schools should be open, even as coronavirus cases have increased, and some have been linked to in-person instruction at schools and universities.

According to the New York Times, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, who serves as the White house coronavirus response coordinator, and officials working for Vice President Mike Pence were part of the effort to pressure the CDC. 

Olivia Troye, a former top aide for Pence on the task force, said she was asked repeatedly by Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, to get the CDC to create reports that showed fewers cases of COVID-19 among young people. 

One former official said White House officials asked the CDC for data that would show a low infection rate among school aged children in “a snazzy, easy-to-read document.” 

Troye explained that she was “appalled” to find out that White House officials were asking junior members of the staff to develop charts and reports.

“You’re impacting people’s lives for whatever political agenda. You’re exchanging votes for lives, and I have a serious problem with that,” Troye told the New York Times. She has since left the White House and has been speaking out publicly about Trump and his administration. 

News of the White House pressuring other government agencies to fall in line with the president’s claims comes as reports indicate that adolescents are twice as likely as young children to test positive for the virus.

Despite claims that people under the age of 18 are less likely to develop symptoms of the virus and far less likely to require medical intervention, data from the CDC shows that children are frequently testing positive and spreading the virus. 

According to the CDC, between March 1 and September 19, more than 277,000 children tested positive for COVID-19. There was also a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic children diagnosed with coronavirus, versus children in other demographics. 

“Although mortality and hospitalization in school-aged children was low, Hispanic ethnicity, Black race, and underlying conditions were more commonly reported among children who were hospitalized or admitted to an ICU, providing additional evidence that some children might be at increased risk for severe illness associated with COVID-19,” the CDC wrote in their report.