The Trump administration continued to push for the full reopening of schools in the fall (fall), Education Secretary Betsy Devos insisting that such action is necessary, despite record outbreaks coronavirus infections in the country.
DeVos, in two television interviews on Sunday, stressed the need to reopen schools, even as several states had record numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitals in many cities were struggling to cope. Florida reported a record high daily peak of all American states on Sunday since the start of the pandemic, with more than 15,000 infections.
“Children have to go back to school, they have to go back to class,” DeVos told CNN, while acknowledging that local conditions had to be taken into account.
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“Families need children to go back to school. And it can be done safely. ”
The statement came at a time when a Trump administration health official had warned that “everything must be on the table” as deaths in the United States continued to increase. To date, the country has registered at least 3.1 million cases and 135,000 deaths.
“We are all very concerned,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health, for ABC’s This Week program, as he called for the closing of bars, more space in restaurants and the almost universal wearing of masks in the most afflicted areas, largely in the southern states which have reopened aggressively.
Pression de Trump
Pressure to reopen schools came from the top, with President Donald Trump threatening to suspend federal funding for schools that refuse to reopen – a position DeVos reconfirmed on Sunday.
Trump has criticized the guidelines of the Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the safe reopening of schools, saying they are too rigid and too expensive.
But many school systems argue that the safety of millions of students, teachers and staff can only be achieved with a combination of distance and in-person education – or in some cases, distance education alone – and that an entirely in person, secure approach would impose extreme costs.
When asked if the government would deny federal funds to schools, which typically account for about 10% of local school budgets, a substantial contribution at a time when reopening costs for larger school systems can reach millions, DeVos refused.
“There is no desire to withdraw money,” she said on CNN. “In fact, we want to see schools open and we are committed to making sure that the resources are there to do it. “
“Malfeasance and breach of duty”
DeVos’ comments contrast sharply with those of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who accused Trump of “playing with” the health of children and demanded that CDC guidelines for reopening schools be made mandatory.
“Going back to school poses the greatest risk of spreading the coronavirus,” Pelosi said at CNN’s State of the Union program. “If there are directives from the CDC, they should be requirements … They should be mandates. ”
Responding directly to DeVos’ comments, Pelosi said, “What we heard from the secretary was fault and neglect. “