White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended President Donald Trump’s insistence that schools reopen in the fall, saying Thursday that scientific findings about COVID-19 won’t “stand in the way” of resuming in-person instruction.
“The President has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open ... and when he says ‘open’ he means open and full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school,” McEnany said at a press briefing. “The science should not stand in the way of this.”
She self-corrected moments later, saying, “The science is on our side here, and we encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools. It’s very damaging to our children.” McEnany emphasized these second statements when responding to criticism of her remarks on Twitter and accused the media of bias.
But her boss’s record on the subject is clear: Trump has repeatedly dismissed the science around the coronavirus by pushing unfounded treatments, downplaying the need for protective masks and characterizing it as a hoax. He’s now pushing for all U.S. schools to resume in-person lessons soon despite cases surging across the country.
Vice President Mike Pence said essentially the same thing earlier this week: “We don’t want CDC guidance to be a reason why people don’t reopen their schools.”
Public health experts, meanwhile, are urging him to consider the science above all else. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official who has sparred with Trump in recent days, has said the decision should be left up to local officials and be based on how bad the outbreak is in their school districts. The Trump administration, for its part, reportedly shut down a document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that centered on developing clear and strict reopening guidelines on a state-by-state basis.
Bizarrely, McEnany defended Trump by pointed to schools reopening in countries that are light-years ahead of the U.S. in terms of slowing the pandemic.
“Of course we can do it,” she said of reopening all schools. “Everyone else in the Western world, our peer nations, are doing it. We are the outlier here.”
The U.S. is an outlier, but not in the way she suggested. The U.S. has repeatedly beaten its single-day record of new coronavirus cases in recent weeks, recording its second-highest ever total of 67,000 new infections on Wednesday. Another tally shows the U.S. creeping up to the top spot in an analysis of coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people, making the U.S. one of the deadliest places on Earth for a disease other developed nations have eradicated.
McEnany also said at her press conference that “the risk of critical illness from COVID is far less for children than that of seasonal flu.”
While the science so far suggests children are far less likely to die or fall seriously ill from the coronavirus, they are no less likely than an adult to infect others, putting their educators, their families and anyone with compounding medical conditions in harm’s way.
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