U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Rochelle Walensky landed on the hot seat in Congress on Tuesday — over a New York Post article that revealed how a national teachers union has been advising her agency.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) grilled the top doc during a hearing with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions over what an expert told The Post was “very troubling” correspondence between the American Federation of Teachers and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I’ve always considered the CDC to be the gold standard. I don’t anymore,” Collins told Walensky, citing the article.
As The Post reported nearly two weeks ago, emails between the AFT and CDC showed an intense lobbying effort by the union days before the agency halted the full in-person reopening of school classrooms in February.
The correspondence was only uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act filed by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust and shared with The Post.
The teachers union, which opposed a full such reopening, suggested language that the CDC could use in drafting its upcoming policy — and some of the AFT’s recommended phrasing actually ended up in the agency’s missive.
Collins quoted a coronavirus expert cited in The Post report: University of California Professor Dr. Monica Gandhi, who called the emails “very, very troubling.
“What seems strange to me here is there would be this very intimate back and forth including phone calls where this political group gets to help formulate scientific guidance for our major public health organization in the United State,” Gandhi told The Post at the time.
“This is not how science-based guidelines should work or be put together.”
Collins called the discussions between the union and CDC “secret negotiations … only revealed through reporting on a FOIA request.”
Collins also pressed Walensky over a New York Times article Tuesday that said it is “misleading” for the CDC to claim outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is “less than 10 percent” — when some experts said studies show that figure is actually much lower.
Walensky fired back on the teachers union brouhaha that the AFT was only one of more than 50 “stakeholders” that the agency sought input from on schools reopening.
As for the 10 percent transmission figure, she said the number “combines all sorts of science from many different places.”