In his latest push for U.S. public schools to reopen even as the country reports more than 4.8 million coronavirus cases and nearly 160,000 deaths from the ongoing pandemic, President Donald Trump on Wednesday repeated his frequent false claim that the virus will somehow just disappear.
"This thing's going away. It will go away like things go away," Trump said Wednesday morning on Fox News. "My view is that schools should be open."
Holy shit. Trump says, "My view is the schools should open. This thing is going away. It will go away like things go away, and my view is that schools should be open."
He then falsely claims kids are "almost immune" from Covid. Just stunningly irresponsible stuff. pic.twitter.com/G8tab1rzpA
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 5, 2020
"Just stunningly irresponsible stuff," tweeted Vox journalist Aaron Rupar.
Robert Maguire, research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), noted that Trump has claimed several times since the pandemic began that the virus would "go away." In July, the death toll rose to 1,000 people per day.
"But, sure, let's trust him with the lives of our children and teachers," Maguire tweeted.
In February, Trump said the virus would "miraculously" go away in April, once it got warmer. It's now August. Much of the country has been scorched by record heat, and it still hasn't gone away.
But, sure, let's trust him with the lives of our children and teachers. https://t.co/NV0CgIL072
— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) August 5, 2020
The president added that children are "almost immune" to the virus, days after a study out of a pediatric hospital in Chicago showed that children "not only transmit SARS-CoV-2 efficiently, but may be major drivers of the pandemic as well."
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Dozens of children at summer camps in Missouri and Georgia have contracted Covid-19 this summer, forcing them to close. Although children's cases have generally been found to be more mild than those in adults, public health officials have linked Covid-19 to multisymptom inflammatory syndrome in children. As of July 15 the CDC had recorded more than 340 cases of the illness and six deaths, with most patients between the ages of one and 14 years.
In his interview with Fox, Trump allowed that "the teachers are a different story" and suggested older educators stay home until the pandemic ends.
About a third of U.S. public school teachers are over the age of 50 and more than 18% are 55 or older, potentially putting them at risk for severe illness if they contract Covid-19.
Starting last month, teachers in states including Florida, Arizona, and Illinois have held protests demanding federal lawmakers develop and fully fund a plan to provide schools with personal protective equipment, sanitation and ventilation systems, and social distancing protocols—or that schools reopen with only remote classes instead. Trump and other Republican leaders have complained that the safety protocols demanded by teachers, parents, and public health experts would be too costly.
Teachers holding signs reading, "We cannot teach from the grave" and "Masks are disposable, teachers aren't" assembled outside the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) headquarters on Monday as the union debated reopening.
On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that schools in the nation's third-largest city would reopen with a remote learning model in the fall.
CTU praised the decision and called on the mayor and Chicago Public Schools leaders to "immediately start planning transparently and in partnership with our union to provide every student the educational, social, and emotional supports they need to learn and grow."
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the reopening of schools in countries around the world is essential to providing an optimal learning experience for children. However, in an accompanying policy brief the U.N. emphasized that it is the responsibility of governments to create the conditions for safe reopenings.
Suppressing the virus is "the single most significant step” countries can take to reopen schools, the U.N. said.
"A key condition to reopening is being able to ensure a safe return to physical premises, while maintaining physical distancing and implementing public health measures," the brief read.