For six weeks, the White House's official coronavirus guidelines served as a foundation of the federal response to the pandemic. On April 30, those standards quietly faded away, without much notice or fanfare.
But don't worry, the administration said, those guidelines would be replaced with something even more relevant to the changing national landscape: a new, multi-phase directive, laying out a series of benchmarks federal officials want states to meet when weighing how best to reopen.
Almost immediately, there were signs of trouble. The president, for example, seemed to celebrate states' decisions to ignore the new policy unveiled by his own White House. The Washington Post reported this week that Donald Trump and members of his team had quietly "backed away from their own guidelines."
Making matters slightly worse, the Associated Press took this a step further, reporting that detailed documents, "created by the nation's top disease investigators," and intended to provide step-by-step advice to officials, have been "shelved" by the administration.
The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled "Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework," was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen. It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance "would never see the light of day," according to a CDC official.
The AP obtained a copy of the federal guidance -- which were separate from the vague directive issued by the White House on Friday -- and the report suggests the document was poised to be quite important.
The rejected reopening guidance was described by one of the federal officials as a touchstone document that was to be used as a blueprint for other groups inside the CDC who are creating the same type of instructional materials for other facilities. The guidance contained detailed advice for making site-specific decisions related to reopening schools, restaurants, summer camps, churches, day care centers and other institutions. It had been widely shared within the CDC and included detailed "decision trees," flow charts to be used by local officials to think through different scenarios.
And it now appears the "specific, tailored recommendations for reopening" won't reach their intended audience, at least not through official channels.
I'll look forward to the White House's explanation for why the CDC's materials were shelved.