(CNN)The posting and removal of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on airborne transmission for coronavirus prompted a flurry of questions from Capitol Hill this week, with both sides of the aisle reaching out for answers on what happened.
And Democrats were not buying the CDC’s innocuous explanation of an unfortunate mistake. They argue it is just the latest example in a long pattern of confusing behavior where the CDC makes one decision and then days later backs off. “The CDC just published scientifically valid information and then pulled it off their website and this is very likely a scandal,” Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, said Tuesday. “One way or another, we’re going to investigate it and find out,” Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said. The CDC guidance pertained to the way the novel coronavirus is spread. While it’s known that Covid-19 can spread through droplets among people standing less than six feet apart, research has continued to explore how the virus suspends in aerosolized particles in the air and transmits to people more than six feet away. Read MoreCDC retraction shows chaos of Trump's Covid responseThe CDC said the retraction of new guidance about airborne coronavirus transmission was the result of a confused staffer who hit “publish” without approval, according to the most detailed explanation yet of the agency’s website mishap. Several other current and former federal health officials also told CNN the document was posted in error before it had gone through the full review process. The posting of the updated guidance was an “honest mistake,” according to a federal health official who works closely with the team and saw it all unfold. A staffer just rotating onto the pandemic unit failed to run the update — which acknowledged a significant risk of airborne transmission — through the extensive CDC scientific review process, the official told CNN. The agency withdrew the update on Monday and language on the website now says the “CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission.” The CDC has not said when it expects to post the updated language. But the move quickly drew scrutiny, coming on the heels of several other instances in which the White House has pressured the CDC to revise or delay releasing coronavirus guidelines. CDC guidelines must also now be run through dozens of people in several different arms of the government — including, two sources tell CNN, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. The incident also highlights the agency’s struggles amid a combination of what one senior administration official called “unforced errors” and its inability to stop the White House’s political interference.The mixture has bruised the reputation of the public health agency charged with guiding the country through the pandemic, calling into question its independence and causing plummeting morale at the agency, a CDC official and former senior HHS official said. In recent weeks and months, Democrats say they have grown increasingly concerned that politics are overshadowing the work scientists are doing at the agencies. That concern came to a boiling point last week when, hours after CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testified on Capitol Hill that mask-wearing could be even more effective than a vaccine, the President told reporters Redfield was wrong. Behind the scenes, Redfield has been reluctant to stand up to the President. In a private call between members of the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee and Redfield on Friday, Redfield — who had just been chastened earlier in the week by Trump’s call out — told members that he did not want to comment on the President’s criticism or confront it.