Rubio says cost of closing schools is ‘extraordinary’

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Republican Senator Marco Rubio suggested on Monday that some high-risk Florida counties are taking “additional steps” to reopen schools in the fall as the state is battered by the coronavirus pandemic.”I think we have to be flexible on all kinds of things,” said Rubio on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, noting that “the costs of not reopening our schools are extraordinary.”

The senator’s remarks came a day after Florida reported the largest one-day increase in Covid-19 positive cases in any state since the onset of the crisis. More than 15,000 cases were confirmed on Sunday in Sunshine State.

Less than a week earlier, the Florida education commissioner ordered schools across the state to reopen in August for in-person instruction at least five days a week.

In a tweet later Monday morning, Rubio reiterated that despite the risks, “at some point this fall, children must return to school.”

Despite the record number of infections, Rubio said most Florida counties will be able to safely reopen their schools on time.

“Florida is a huge state. We have 67 counties. I have spent more than a week now in northwest Florida where the vast majority of counties could reopen. They don’t face it, ”said Rubio. “So I think in many of our counties the answer to this question is yes, we could. ”

In the counties hardest hit by the outbreak, Rubio said he thought additional precautions should be taken – but did not suggest that these areas should wait longer to reopen their schools.

For these areas, “I think we’re going to have to take extra steps to be able to reopen schools and I think we need to be flexible on all kinds of things,” said Rubio.

“It will not be the school as we are used to in normal times, but at some point you have to make these decisions on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis: what are the costs of not reopening the schools, are the advantages with regard to the virus of not opening schools, “said Rubio. “And I think in the short and long term, the costs are extraordinary. ”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, agreed.

“I have no doubt that we can do it safely,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Thursday, CNN reported. “We spent months saying there were certain things that were essential – including fast food restaurants, there was Walmart, there was Home Depot. If fast food and Walmart and Home Depot – and look, I’m doing it all, so I’m not looking down – but if it is all essential, then educating our children is absolutely essential. ”

President Donald Trump urged heads of state to reopen their schools in the fall, threatening to cut funding if in-person classes don’t resume. Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration is considering ways to use a possible additional federal coronavirus rescue cycle to provide “incentives” to schools to reopen.

Advocates for teachers pushed back the pressure to bring the children back to class, warning that reopening it early could be risky.

The country’s second largest teachers’ union last week announced that it would launch a million dollar advertising campaign to pressure Congress to approve additional funds to help schools prepare for reopening. .

Rubio told the Squawk Box that lawmakers in Washington, DC, must do more to fight the spread of the virus and mitigate the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.

“I have no doubt about it, especially for small businesses,” he said. “I think we are 90% of the way in terms of gathering ideas on how to really help small businesses with fewer than 300 employees or less, targeted not only for payroll but also for payment costs of some of these adaptive technologies which they must find to comply with local regulations. ”

He added, “We are going to have to be nimble and flexible here, because as the impact of this virus on our economy evolves, our policies will have to evolve to keep pace.”

– CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.

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