Still, the latest CDC document was very descriptive, providing a detailed road map for schools, restaurants, transit and child care facilities on the categories to consider before reopening.
CNN previously reported one of the main hold ups for publishing the CDC documents was the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights Division felt that faith-based organizations were being unfairly targeted.
In drafting the document, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights asked the CDC to ease social distancing recommendations for those groups, encouraging federal health officials to let churches congregate, an official involved told CNN last week.
According to the official, HHS officials “made” them take out a reference to Communion plates, despite a scientific review that confirmed one of the ways people can contract the virus is by drinking out of a Communion cup. Health officials outside of HHS, but still involved in guidelines discussion, raised concerns about this request.
One source familiar with the matter said last week that this is aligned with the President’s agenda and complained that the original wording in the CDC draft went against that agenda by singling out churches. This official said the guidelines needed to be more broad — giving the example of “no one should share a cup” versus “don’t share a Communion cup.”
A senior CDC official told CNN that references to faith-based guidance were “stripped” from the final document.
Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, told CNN last week that the agency does not comment on internal deliberations.
“Protections against religious discrimination aren’t suspended during an emergency,” he added. “This means the federal government cannot single out religious conduct as somehow being more dangerous or worthy of scrutiny than comparable secular behavior. HHS has a duty to instruct the public on how to stay safe during this crisis and can absolutely do so without dictating to people how they should worship God.”
A CNN review last week found that the guidelines in the original version were far more strict and detailed than the White House’s own road map toward a return to normal. Based on the original guidance, “no one who is reopening meets the criteria for reopening,” a senior CDC official told CNN at the time.
The original CDC guidelines were the result of a request from the White House’s coronavirus task force, specifically Dr. Deborah Birx, a senior CDC official told CNN earlier this month, noting that the White House did not plan on implementing the agency’s guidelines.
The final document comes as both White House and CDC officials describe a growing sense of mistrust and animosity between the two groups over how quickly the US should reopen and how the government tracks data on the virus.
In particular, Birx has become increasingly critical of the CDC, making clear in recent meetings that she is more than frustrated with the agency, according to two senior administration officials. Specifically, Birx believes the way the CDC gathers data on the coronavirus is antiquated, causing inaccurate and delayed numbers on both virus cases and deaths.
This story has been updated with additional background information.
CNN’s Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.