Emails released via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request reveal the Biden administration tightened its masking guidelines after a prominent teachers union threatened to release a statement harshly criticizing CDC masking policy, according to Fox News.
In a draft statement sent to the White House, the National Education Association slammed the Centers for Disease Control after announcing on May 13 that fully vaccinated Americans could stop wearing masks indoors and outside, sparking confusion as to how this would apply to schools.
After several frantic back-and-forth conversations, the CDC 'clarified' its guidance to indicate that everyone in schools should mask up, regardless of vaccination status, according to the emails obtained by watchdog group, Americans for Public Trust.
As suspected, the CDC's current school mask guidance came at the request/demand of the teachers unions, not based on any science.— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) September 8, 2021
Thanks @apublictrust for obtaining the emails.https://t.co/pKETNBVAKG pic.twitter.com/Wv09J2JK6t
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"Would you know when Dr. Wolensky would be able to call NEA-Pres. Becky Pringle?" Dinkel-Smith wrote in the email. "They've gotten significant incoming and are getting targeted for a response from the media. I've gotten them to hold on their statement calling for clarification."
That same day, Dinkel-Smith received the NEA's draft statement, allowing them to weigh in on it.
"We appreciate the developing nature of the science and its implications for guidance, but releasing the guidance without accompanying school-related updates creates confusion and fuels the internal politicization of this basic health and safety issue," the draft statement read. "CDC has consistently said, and studies support, that mitigation measures, including to protect the most vulnerable, remain necessary in schools and institutions of higher education – particularly because no elementary or middle school students, and few high school students, have been vaccinated."
"This will also make it hard for school boards and leaders of institutions of higher education to do the right thing by maintaining mitigation measures," it continued. "We need CDC clarification right away."
Following discussion and coordination with the Biden White House, the NEA released a statement with a much less critical tone.
The emails also show the White House and the CDC had extensive contact with union leadership.
On May 14, Dinkel-Smith asked CDC chief of staff Sherri Berger to connect NEA President Becky Pringle with the CDC director. Berger responded to the request by writing "will do" and that the CDC director was "connecting w/ Becky now."
Less than 30 minutes later, Berger sent an update saying she had spoken with Pringle and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
The next day, on May 15, the CDC updated its masking guidance to indicate that all people should wear a mask at school regardless of vaccination status.
"This batch of emails came just weeks after we already exposed the teachers unions influenced the CDC on school openings," Americans for Public Trust Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland told Fox News. "Lo and behold, less than two weeks later, they're at it again, but this time in relation to mask guidance."