Editorial: Trump Wants Schools Open, CDC Guidelines Optional

In his most recent effort to pretend that the coronavirus is a thing of the past, Donald Trump is attempting to strong-arm schools into fully reopening this fall, despite a COVID-19 pandemic that shows no signs of abating. If K-12 schools don’t bring back students for on-site classes, Trump has threatened to withhold school funding. He has also criticized the CDC’s guidelines for re-opening schools, saying that they should be made less stringent.

Ignoring the fact that that Germany, Denmark, and Norway have succeeded in containing the spread of COVID-19, Trump tweeted, “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”

Trump is tired of the COVID-19 virus. He’s tired of the impact it’s having on his approval ratings. He’s tired of being asked difficult questions. He’s tired of the inconvenience of it all. What’s more, he demonstrates an inability to reason out cause and effect. Reopening schools in the middle of a pandemic, he apparently believes, will convince Americans that the virus is behind them, demonstrate his great leadership in conquering the virus, and consequently improve his polling numbers.

“I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools,” Trump also tweeted. “While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”

Appearing to support President Trump’s criticism of CDC guidelines for schools, Vice President Mike Pence told journalists at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Wednesday, “The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough. And that’s the reason next week the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools.”

Using logic that sounded strangely akin to “We’re seeing more cases because we’re doing more testing,” Pence also said, “We don’t want the guidance from CDC to be a reason why schools don’t open.”

(In other words, “Science, schmience.”)

In a similarly confusing moment, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said that the existing CDC guidelines aren’t meant to be prescriptive, that it was not the CDC’s intent to “provide a rationale to keep schools closed.”

So, while the CDC’s health and safety recommendations are optional for schools, Trump wants to make students return to school in person, no matter what, even if it puts them, their families, and school staff at risk. In Trump’s alternate reality, this will put the coronavirus in its place, and his ratings will soar.

Many schools fear reopening because they don’t have the resources to make the changes necessary for assuring health and safety for their students and staff. It’s ironic, then, that instead of authorizing funds to help these schools, Trump is threatening to reduce their funding. Pence, in fact, suggested that future COVID-19 relief bills might be tied to whether schools reopen.

It’s challenging for many families when kids can’t be physically at school. Opening schools unsafely, however, could result in much worse hardship. The country has been grappling with the quandary of how to get students the education and services they need, how to help working parents who have to miss work when their children are home, and how to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

The solution is not to order everyone back to school as if that would make COVID-19 and all of its resulting economic, educational, and social issues just go away. With no plan in place, and no funding or resources allocated to address these problems or to ensure that schools are equipped for health and safety, families with school-age children have been placed in a bind.

Some governors are pushing back, saying the president has no authority over when schools reopen. (The president also can’t decide on his own to withhold funding from schools.)

“School reopenings are a state decision, period,” said New York governor Andrew Cuomo. “That is the law, and that is the way we are going to proceed. It’s not up to the president of the United States.”

And on Thursday, despite the criticism and implied pressure from Donald Trump, and contrary to Mike Pence’s hints that the CDC would be bending to Trump’s pressure, CDC Director Redfield said that the CDC would not be changing its guidelines, but would only be adding more information for schools on how to use the guidelines.

“Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid basically communities in trying to open K-through-12s,” Redfield said. “It’s not a revision of the guidelines; it’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance we put forward.”

Remember, though…they’re “just guidelines.” Presumably, though, schools will do what they can, even if it’s limited.

Trump’s claim that “young people do extraordinarily well” is not always true, since some children have underlying conditions. And all children are capable of transmitting the virus without symptoms.

Additionally, the reality is that children will be children— they’ll have runny noses, they’ll lose their masks, they’ll forget to wash their hands. And what about the kids who have had the “it’s a hoax” mentality instilled in them by MAGA parents? How fastidious will they be with the health and safety guidelines?

We must keep in mind that even if a return to schools is mandatory, the CDC has just made it clear that it is not mandatory for schools to follow the guidelines for keeping students and faculty healthy while they’re at school.

Donald Trump needs for schools to fully reopen— not for the wellbeing of our children, but for his campaign. During the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., he has demonstrated over and over again that the health and safety of Americans are of little consequence to him. This latest stunt should erase all doubt that this is true.

Trump Pressures Schools To Reopen Despite Coronavirus Surge | TODAY

Trump calls for reopening of US schools amid COVID-19 pandemic |
Al Jazeera English [2020-07-08]