Trump Is Doing Everything He Can to Keep Schools Closed

Trump Is Doing Everything He Can to Keep Schools Closed July 9, 2020

In mid-May, the CDC released guidelines for reopening schools. These guidelines outlined a variety of public health recommendations, including as smaller class sizes and mask wearing. These were all recommendations only; the CDC’s guidance is not a federal mandate, nor is it enforceable. It is simply guidance. Since these guidelines were released, school districts across the country have been drawing up plans, making their decisions based on both on the particularities of their local situations and on the guidelines created by the CDC.

Trump, all of a sudden this week, decided he is not okay with that.

It’s July. The CDC released its school reopening guidelines nearly two months ago. Trump has the attention span of a gnat, and often seems completely unpredictable. He ought to have reviewed the CDC’s guidelines back in mid-May when they were released, like myself and millions of other parents, teachers, and administrators. Or, as the president of the United States, he could probably gain advanced access.

Coming to the conversation nearly two months late and entering it with a divisive, angry tweet is not helpful. I’ve been in group projects like this, where one person in the group does nothing at all while everyone else works their butts off, only to jump in at the last moment with a sudden testy declaration that the main premises of the entire project are wrong and that the project needs to be completely redone. Nobody likes that person. Ever.

Trump is also making another mistake: rather than trying to make things safe for X activity, he is simply declaring point blank that X activity must be resumed. Do we want schools to reopen? Yes! But only if it’s safe. Rather than ordering schools to reopen, Trump ought to be doing everything possible to make sure it’s safe for schools to reopen.

We’ve seen this all along. It’s what happened with the slipshod and hasty reopenings in many states that have now resulted in surging cases. It is what we see every time Trump runs off a tweet that makes it clear that he doesn’t understand that getting the epidemic under control is foundational to fixing the economy. He does not seem to realize that these things are at all connected. He is treating the symptom, rather than the disease. Literally. 

And Pence is standing right along side Trump echoing everything he wants to hear.

What a freaking mess. The entire point of having a Center for Disease Control is so that various bodies can have ready access to public health information. Individual principals, superintendents, and school board members are not infectious disease experts—and they shouldn’t have to become infectious disease experts to figure out how to safely reopen their schools. That’s where the CDC comes in. If an administrator looks at the CDC’s guidance and determines that it’s not safe to resume in-person instruction in there area, there’s probably a good reason for that.

But no. That’s not where we are. We’re here:

Karen Pence is a teacher at a private Christian school. If she’s an expert on this topic, there are over three million experts on this topic. Pence might want to consider talking to more than one.

As a parent, I am really, really frustrated. Do I want my kids back in school? Absolutely! But I also want them—and myself, and my community—safe. While it’s true that children are at very low risk of suffering serious illness from this virus, we know that kids can and do spread it, both to other kids and to adults. And many children live with grandparents or adults with medical conditions, or in families that have regular contact with at-risk individuals.

Another claim to debunk: while it’s true that schools in some places (such as Denmark) have successfully reopened schools, these countries have typically: (a) only opened schools after reducing the virus’ spread to fairly low levels, something many parts of the U.S. have not successfully done; and (b) have opened schools with safety mechanisms in place that mirror those outlined in the CDC’s guidance on school reopening.

In other words, if we want to successfully reopen schools, we most both buckle down and reduce infections (something Trump does not seem particularly interested in doing, with his continued insistence that our numbers only look they way they do because of our level of testing) and find ways to implement the CDC’s reopening guidelines (something Trump is now directly undermine and arguing should not happen).

If Trump wants school districts to be able to safely reopen schools this fall—something I very much want as well—he is doing exactly the opposite of what he should be doing. This does not engender much hope in this parent.

I’m tired. I’m very, very tired.

And you know what? One of the reasons I’m so tired is that I have been responsible for supervising my children 100% of the time for four months now, with no breaks (I can tag-team it with my husband, but that only goes so far). I love my children dearly, and I like being around them, but anything in excess can get old, and everyone needs breaks. I haven’t been able to send my children to school, or to a friend’s house, or to spend time with relatives, in four months. I haven’t even been able to get a babysitter, and I am damn tired.

And you know who else is tired? My kids are tired. Damn tired. If school is virtual again this fall, there will be tears. A lot of tears.

The idea that Democrats want to keep schools closed in the fall—something Trump has begun claiming—is utter nonsense. I am well aware that being allowed to play with other children is bad for my children. While we’ve created a “pod,” the small number of kid in our pod are not necessarily their closest friends and not necessarily even their age. This is not fun! But you know what else is not fun? Ending up in an ICU on a ventilator is not fun!

I don’t have words strong enough to express how angry I am at how Trump has handled the response to COVID-19. He has treated everything—literally everything—like it is some sort of political game. It’s not. It’s a brand new deadly virus. You can’t play politics with a virus. Well, you can—but you will lose. 

To safely reopen our schools, we need case counts to come down—which requires closing bars, mandating masks, and practicing aggressive social distancing—and we need sound scientific guidance. Trump, who is still trying to encourage economic activity in order to “restart” the economy, wants neither of these things.

In actual practice, Trump is doing everything he can to keep our schools closed. And then, if and when schools are closed this fall, he will inexplicably blame this on the Democrats. It is our children who will be the losers.

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