Trump to steer national conversation on ‘safely reopening’ schools, contradicted after claiming most coronavirus infections ‘totally harmless.’

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

America wants to know what’s ahead for students and educators this fall, from kindergarten through college. On Tuesday, President Trump will steer a “national dialogue on safely reopening America’s schools.” The president in April called on schools to reopen, but educators believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the safest option for all young people who want to resume instruction in August and September.

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States climb to 2.9 million this week and public health officials point to cavalier and risky behavior by people younger than 40 as a continuing worry for the spread of the virus, parents of grade school and college students are asking similar questions: What’s safe for children (and everyone they’re around), and what steps are possible for families to sustain, especially economically?

“There is not a single best answer here,” said former Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “We have to get used to a huge amount of uncertainty.” During a recent interview on the “In the Bubble” podcast with Andy Slavitt, a former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Duncan emphasized his worries about helping youngsters “who are falling behind” educationally because of the disruptions caused by COVID-19. He said some school principals will need to speak with families about whether students can or should come back to school this fall, based on their own unique situations.

A group of bipartisan policy leaders published education guidelines in May called #OpenSafely.

As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports, public health experts want to see many schools reopen this fall, citing the educational and social benefits to children, but they also argue that reopening classrooms in some regions of the country could require trade-offs now, such as shuttering indoor bars and even some restaurants where the ambiance and customers are contributing to the spread of COVID-19. Some school districts are considering hybrid systems where students are taught in person some days and at home other days.

The Associated Press: Debates turn emotional as schools decide how and if to open.

The Washington Post opinion: To reopen schools in the fall, close bars now.

Bloomberg News: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said public schools in a city that serves 1.1 million students plan to reopen in September. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), through his staff, said the mayor’s announcement was “premature” because such a decision is made by state rather than local officials. One major consideration: teachers (and their union). (Today, Gotham moves into phase three of its reopening with expanded outdoor dining, but indoor dining is on pause.)

The New York Times: Most universities plan to bring students back to campus. But many of their professors are concerned about joining them.

The Associated Press: Amid pandemic, fewer students seek federal aid for college.

Trump’s dive this week into questions about returning students to classrooms will raise eyebrows, in part because his advice shifts and is so frequently contradicted by scientific research. The president last week said the coronavirus “will disappear,” disputing every federal public health official on his own White House coronavirus task force. On Saturday, he claimed erroneously that 99 percent of confirmed infections are “totally harmless,” an assertion disputed by physicians and researchers worldwide who say it is possible that patients who recover from even mild cases of the coronavirus could experience long-term health effects and that one of the puzzles of COVID-19 is the unpredictability of who experiences mild infections and who becomes gravely ill (Science News).

The Associated Press: Trump’s COVID-19 statements do not beat a virus, calm a restive nation.

The New York Times: Health experts push back on Trump’s false claim that 99 percent of U.S. infections are “totally harmless.”

The Hill’s roundup of Sunday talk shows: Food and Drug Administration commissioner declines to confirm Trump claim that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases are “harmless.”

The Hill: A growing number of Democratic lawmakers contend that without a national strategy from the Trump administration, it is already too late to contain COVID-19 in expanding regions of the United States.

> Working and learning from home: Some companies, including British drugmaker AstraZeneca, have created educational fallbacks and child care alternative systems for employees to help them adapt to working during the pandemic and helping their children learn at home. The new corporate attitude about home-working could help lead to higher productivity and loyalty, according to experts, as companies rethink whether staff need to be in the office, and as schools take time to return to normal (Reuters). …Parents are opting to home school their children because of COVID-19, but experts say it might not be for everyone (NBC News).

> Testing for COVID-19: Five reasons why the United States still hasn’t solved its testing crisis after six months (Politico).

> Vaccine news: Who will get it first? Food suppliers argue their workers should be near the front of the line. Fifteen trade groups recently made their case to Trump, citing his declaration that the food and agriculture sector is a critical component of the nation’s infrastructure. Administration officials have signaled they will take a “tiered approach” to giving out the vaccine when it is ready (The Hill). … Officials gird for a war on vaccine misinformation (Science magazine).

> COVID-19, virus genetics and mutations: In humans, DNA linked to COVID-19 was passed down from Neanderthals, a study finds. A stretch of six genes seems to increase the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus (The New York Times). … The Houston Chronicle reports that “evidence is growing” that a mutated coronavirus strain circulating in Houston is more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19 in China, according to two new research papers. Questions about the effect of mutations in the virus have circulated in the scientific community since last year, and mutations pose challenges for the development of an effective vaccine (Healthline).

%d bloggers like this: