- White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday President Trump wanted US schools to be "open and full" and that "the science should not stand in the way of this."
- McEnany then cited a study that showed the risk of critical illness from COVID-19 in children is "far less for children than that of season flu," adding, "The science is on our side here."
- But public-health experts have cautioned against reopening schools because there isn't enough research into how children react to the novel coronavirus.
- The Trump administration's push to reopen schools comes as states across the country report new surges in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday President Donald Trump "unmistakably" wanted US schools to open and that "the science should not stand in the way of this."
McEnany was asked about school districts across the country deciding to hold online-only classes when the academic year begins in the fall. "What does the president say to parents out there who say, 'OK, what do I do with my kids?'" a reporter asked.
"The president has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open," McEnany replied. "I was just in the Oval talking to him about that, and when he says open, he means open and full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school.
"The science should not stand in the way of this, and as Dr. Scott Atlas said — I thought this was a good quote — 'Of course we can do this. Everyone in the Western world; our peer nations are doing this. We are the outlier here,'" McEnany said.
She was referring to statements that Atlas, the former chief of Stanford University's neuroradiology department, made during a Fox News appearance Wednesday.
McEnany went on to say that "the science is very clear on this." She also referenced a JAMA study of 46 pediatric hospitals in North America. The study showed "the risk of critical illness from COVID is far less for children than that of season flu. The science is on our side here," McEnany said.
However, many public-health officials have cautioned against reopening schools because there hasn't yet been enough research into how children react to the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19. They also say reopening schools could pose a particularly high risk of infection, given that schools are indoor spaces that are often poorly ventilated and feature hundreds of people talking and interacting.
"We encourage localities and states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools," McEnany said. "It's very damaging to our children — there's a lack of reporting of abuse, there's mental depressions that are not addressed, suicidal ideations that are not addressed when students are not in school. Our schools are extremely important. They're essential, and they must reopen."
—The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 16, 2020
The Trump administration has doubled down on its efforts to push states to reopen schools in recent days.
"Kids need to get back to school. They need to get back in the classroom," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told CNN this week. "Families need for kids to get back in the classroom. And it can be done safely."
Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of health, struck a similar chord, telling ABC's "This Week" that "we're all very concerned."
Both DeVos and Giroir said social-distancing measures should still be observed and that the plan to reopen schools may vary based on the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in different localities.
The president, too, has renewed his efforts to compel schools to reopen, at one point threatening to withhold federal funding from districts that refuse to reopen (something he does not have the power to unilaterally do).
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