Rep. Greg Murphy (R., N.C.) called on Centers for Disease Control director Rochelle Walensky to resign Tuesday after reports surfaced that one of America’s largest teachers’ unions influenced the center’s school reopening guidelines.
"As a practicing physician, I believe that any physician who puts the influence of political organizations before the well-being of our children has violated the Hippocratic Oath and does not belong in public service," Murphy said in an exclusive statement to the Washington Free Beacon. "These actions are unconscionable, and so I am calling on Dr. Walensky to resign immediately."
The CDC edited its guidance for reopening schools in response to pressure from the American Federation of Teachers, emails between top officials at the CDC, the union, and the White House show. The union offered "suggestions" to the CDC’s plan that were added "nearly verbatim" into the center’s Feb. 12 school reopening playbook, the New York Post reported.
Teachers' unions across the United States rallied to keep schools closed during the pandemic, ignoring a body of scientific evidence that said it’s safe to teach students face-to-face. Unions demanded teachers be prioritized during vaccine distribution before returning to the classroom, but scientists—including Walensky—said such measures were not necessary to safely reopen schools.
The CDC was prepared to recommend schools reopen before the American Federation of Teachers stepped in. Kelly Trautner, the American Federation of Teachers' senior director for health issues, said the union reviewed a draft of the CDC’s reopening guidance and gave some "feedback" on how to improve the plan. That email was forwarded to Walensky by White House coronavirus testing coordinator Carole Johnson, according to the Post.
Trautner suggested an "update" of CDC guidelines could be necessary for schools in communities with higher rates of coronavirus cases. The American Federation of Teachers also demanded school staff with higher risks of contracting the virus receive special allowances to work from home. Both measures were included in the final draft of the CDC’s guidance.
Murphy, a doctor and member of the House Education and Labor Committee, told the Free Beacon that scientists, especially the CDC’s experts, should not bow to pressure from political influences.
"The CDC is supposed to be occupied by scientists who do not bow to political influence," Murphy said. "This obviously is not the case under Dr. Walensky’s leadership. As one of the most important public health officials in America, she should have had the fortitude to reject AFT’s influence in the CDC’s recommendations."