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Top White House COVID Adviser Suggests Shutting Back Down, Yet DeVos Plows Ahead on Schools Reopening

fraudulent student loans and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“It is time to take a stand against Trump’s dangerous, anti-science agenda that puts the lives of our members, our students, and our families at risk.”

In an evasive interview with CNN, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said schools should reopen in the fall as a rule across the board with local exceptions made.

“The rule should be that kids go back to school this fall. And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school-by-school or a case-by-case basis,” said DeVos.

48 states are currently seeing an increase in the number of daily coronavirus cases, and the country continues to break previous records of cases, topping out at nearly 72,000 on July 10th.

DeVos’s interview comes on the back of President Trump disagreeing with the CDC’s official guidelines for opening schools and a full-court press from the administration to reopen schools in the fall.

However, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s top coronavirus adviser said last week in a press conference that states with spiking numbers of coronavirus cases should “close the bars, to move to outdoor dining, to decrease indoor — any kind of indoor gatherings again.”

When asked about the mortality rate for students, Dr. Birx said it is “is less than 0.1 percent” for those under 25. Official CDC numbers show COVID deaths in all age ranges under 25, with a peak of 27 in a week in early April.

Safe for Kids or Staff?

DeVos’s interview shows the administration is hellbent on reopening schools in the fall despite a national rise in the number of coronavirus cases. But, concerned parents and educators have called into question the contradictions in the messages from the federal government.

Local officials announced schools in Fairfax County would return only two days a week in the fall with the rest of the week being virtual. Parents would also have the option to keep their kids at home.

DeVos has been very critical of the plan, but Fairfax County superintendent Scott Brabrand said it was not possible to open schools five days a week and follow CDC social distancing guidelines.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, said “there’s no way that you’re going to have full-time schools for all the kids and all the teachers the way we used to have it.”

Pssst, while you're here...

Weingarten cited a lack of funding for personal protective equipment.

Los Angeles’s teacher’s union asked for Los Angeles schools to go fully remote as kids return to school in the fall.

“It is time to take a stand against Trump’s dangerous, anti-science agenda that puts the lives of our members, our students, and our families at risk,” said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz.

Threats

The Trump administration has been playing hardball with educators as the White House attempts to restore confidence in the public despite an explosion of coronavirus cases.

Trump tweeted that schools in “Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries” and said that he “may cut off funding” if schools did not reopen.

Many schools across Europe have reopened with minimal reclosures, but Arizona has been registering more daily coronavirus cases than the entire European Union, despite Arizona’s population being 60 times smaller than the EU. In Florida, officials reported a record-breaking 15,000 cases on Sunday, which prompted Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, to say the outbreak is “completely out of control.”

With coronavirus sweeping the nation, Trump’s rhetoric and actions against schools have only increased.

Not only did Trump attack CDC guidelines on school’s reopening, but ICE announced foreign students would not be allowed to stay in the country if they did not have in-person classes. Many American universities had announced a move to remote learning in the fall, and Harvard and M.I.T. launched a suit against the government.

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Alec Pronk

Alec is a freelance writer with an interest in both geopolitics and American domestic issues. He finished his Master's degree with a critical focus on government counterterrorism policies.

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