President Donald Trump is still demanding schools reopen, even after nixing his Republican National Convention keynote events in Florida next month.
The president argued Thursday that “a permanent shutdown was never the strategy, which would ultimately lead to greater mortality and irreversible harm.” The prosperity of the U.S. economy hinges on children returning to school in person this fall, he contended, noting that the Council of Economic Advisers has estimated more than 5 million parents won’t be able to go back to work if their kids don’t return to campus.
“Reopening our schools is also critical to ensuring that parents can go to work and provide for their families,” Trump said during a press conference. “It’s a tremendous problem. It’s a tremendous problem. Schools have to open safely.”
After saying this week that he is “comfortable” sending his son and grandchildren to school next semester, Trump said Thursday that government leaders “cannot indefinitely stop 50 million American children from going to school, harming their mental, physical and emotional development.”
Minutes after the briefing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its delayed guidance for reopening schools, including checklists to help parents determine whether they are comfortable sending their children back for in-person learning in the fall.
The CDC acknowledged in the new guidance that “relatively little” is known about how the virus is transmitted to children and that “while uncommon, deaths and rare illness … may occur.” But the agency also emphasized the value of in-person learning, including access to school nutrition programs, as well as interaction beneficial to social and emotional wellness.
Trump on Thursday called teachers “essential workers,” cautioning that keeping schools closed will lead to greater learning loss for Black and Hispanic children, that more students will go hungry, and that more sexual and physical abuse will go unreported.
The president acknowledged that some districts in areas where the coronavirus is spreading aggressively could delay reopening for a few weeks, but said “every district should be actively making preparations to open.”
The CDC warned Thursday that outbreaks at a particular school — or even a single exposure — could force parents to keep their child at home for a two-week quarantine, which could in turn keep parents out of work.
“You may need to consider the feasibility of teleworking, taking leave from work, or identifying someone who can supervise your child,” the CDC suggested.
The CDC also urged parents who do send their kids back to school to get their children vaccinated for the flu, practice hand washing at home and make it “fun.” The agency advised guardians to check kids’ temperatures each morning and to keep them home if they have a fever of 100 degrees or higher.
Trump has spent the better part of July demanding schools reopen for in-person instruction this fall. Despite his insistence and threats to cut school funding, the nation’s largest school districts are rejecting the president’s orders, opting for virtual education or just a few days a week in school.
Before making a decision on whether to send a child back to campus, the CDC’s checklists ask parents to consider several factors, including whether the child has an underlying health condition or someone else in the household is at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus due to age or health conditions. Parents should also take into account whether their local community has a high level of community spread, the agency said.