Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield denounced the Chicago Teachers Union's decision to return to virtual learning, arguing that the "safest place" for children right now is in the classroom.

The Chicago Teachers Union voted late Tuesday to return to full-time remote learning amid the surge in COVID-19 cases. Redfield told "America Reports" Wednesday that the decision has no scientific basis and only risks causing further harm to children grappling with the mental health impacts of the pandemic. 


"It’s so important to keep our schools open to face-to-face learning. We can do it in a safe and responsible way," Redfield emphasized. "The reality is the school is probably the safest place for these students to be, so I don’t think the decision really is grounded in science. I don’t think it’s grounded in our knowledge of what the situation is."

The Chicago Teachers Union's vote forced classes as early as Wednesday to be canceled. The vote was approved by 73% of the union's members, who voted for no in-class learning until cases of COVID-19 "substantially subside" or until union leaders approve an agreement for safety protocols with the district. 

Redfield said the move will only exacerbate the negative effects children are experiencing, telling Fox News that there's "no question that the public health interest of K-12 students is not served by remote learning."

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testifies at a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services. Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/New York Times, Pool via AP)

"Whether it’s nutritional support that millions of children get or the mental health service support that over 7 million kids get, whether it’s the ability to detect child abuse, the mental health, depression, loneliness, suicide, drug abuse," he continued. "Not to mention ... some of these kids fall off the learning curve, and some of them are never going to get back on the learning curve."

"This is really not in the interest of children," Redfield reiterated. "Public health interest is to keep the kids in face-to-face learning. It can be done safe and responsibly. It’s actually safer than having them at home in the community."

Redfield later addressed the newest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on testing and isolation that has left many confused

On Tuesday, the top health agency reiterated that children and adults who test positive can halve their isolation time from 10 to five days if they're asymptomatic. The CDC declined to add a clear testing recommendation while saying that people can take a test if they have "access" and "want to." 


"I agree with you, it’s highly confusing," Redfield said, adding that while he is in favor of reducing the isolation time period to five days, he is "totally not in agreement with their decision not to do a test."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky gives her opening statement during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing. November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

"I think we really need to embrace a test they find, and if you are negative, you can test and return," he said. "If you are positive, you are going to need to get a test again. I personally would not wait until day 10, because the whole purpose was to get people back into the workforce. You test at day five, and you are negative, you go back to work. If you are positive, stay in isolation. Test at day seven and if you’re now negative, you go back to work."


Redfield said the updated guidance doesn't consider "knowledge of infection as fundamental to whether you return to work or the issue of schools, [based on] what we call test and stay."

 "It’s critical we use this testing as our guide," he said.