Republican senators on Wednesday said they would probe whether the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on school reopening were influenced by politics rather than by science after scientists accused the CDC of misinterpreting their research to keep schools closed.
In an op-ed published Tuesday, Drs. Tara Henderson, Monica Gandhi, Tracy Beth Hoeg, and Daniel Johns said the recent school reopening guidance issued by the CDC "is an example of fears influencing and resulting in misinterpretation of science and harmful policy."
"Keeping schools closed or even partially closed, based on what we know now is unwarranted, is harming children, and has become a human rights issue," the doctors said, noting that while the science supports reopening schools, only about half of U.S. schools are open for in-person instruction.
Appearing on "America's Newsroom" on Fox News, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he would ask the CDC how it got reopening schools wrong, suggesting that politically connected teachers' unions are exerting influence on the Biden administration's policies.
"You start to wonder whether there's some political influence," Rubio said. "Common sense tells you there are powerful teacher unions in parts of this country who are very important to the Democratic Party, key allies of Joe Biden, and they don't want to open. And rather than have to line up against them, this is a scientific cover, a pseudo-scientific cover for them not to have to reopen."
He said that the costs of keeping schools closed are far outweighing the potential benefits of reduced COVID-19 spread.
"The cost of not reopening schools, we know, are very, very high. We see the mental health crisis among young people, the learning losses that are occurring, not to mention the social aspects of it. And the benefits, I think, are a diminishing return at this point," Rubio said. "There is clear science and evidence that includes schools that have been open now for months, including in Florida, that you can reopen schools safely even without vaccines in place, even without rigorous testing.
"It can be done, it is being done, and there's no reason why more places can't do it."
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also demanded answers from the CDC on "America Reports."
"What we would like to know is how they parsed this information, because it appears that what the CDC did was to go into the research and say, OK, we have a narrative that we need to meet. We need to make certain that we are following what the teachers' unions want to have happen, which is to keep the schools closed to keep children out of the classrooms," she said.