In Reversal, Trump Says Schools In Coronavirus Hot Spots Should Delay Reopening : Coronavirus Updates The president links billions of dollars in federal aid to school districts that reopen fully but acknowledges that in some coronavirus hot spots, the start of the school year may need to be delayed.

In Reversal, Trump Says Schools In Coronavirus Hot Spots Should Delay Reopening

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

At a White House press conference on Thursday, President Trump kept pushing for schools to reopen. He did this even while acknowledging that it might not be possible in places where the virus is surging.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Districts may need to delay reopening for a few weeks, and that's possible. That'll be up to governors. The decision should be made based on the data and the facts on the grounds in each community, but every district should be actively making preparations to open.

GREENE: The president also announced new guidance on school reopening from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Anya Kamenetz from NPR's ed team has been following all of this. Good morning, Anya.

ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So what's this new guidance from the CDC? What does it say?

KAMENETZ: So you might remember President Trump calling the previous guidance very tough and expensive on Twitter.

GREENE: Yeah.

KAMENETZ: And his press secretary even said this science should not stand in the way of schools coming back in person. The new guidance isn't necessarily any less tough or expensive. It still includes the hand washing, the mask or cloth face coverings, social distancing, keeping kids separated. But what I noticed was kind of a shift in tone.

GREENE: In what way?

KAMENETZ: So for example, on one webpage, there are 15 separate references now to the word critical - the critical role that in-person schools play, the critical services that in-person schools provide. And so that's - yeah, I mean, I think that's - that kind of underlines what they're trying to say here.

GREENE: So stressing that in person is important, trying to get the president's own sentiments kind of in these CDC guidelines - is that what's happening?

KAMENETZ: That's what I perceived, and it - of course, this is also in line with some scientific recommendations, like from the American Academy of Pediatrics, not to mention the feelings of many educators, many families, that, yes, vulnerable students are suffering out of school. Yes, there are big learning gaps opening up with virtual learning.

GREENE: Well, is there anything new in here in terms of science and what it's telling us?

KAMENETZ: You know, there's a little bit, David, but it's pretty mixed. And of course, if you've been following our coverage, you'll hear that the guidance takes a look at different countries, for example, that have reopened schools, and it's a mixed bag. You know, where community transmission is very low, like in Denmark, it's gone pretty well. In other places like Israel, cases surged after schools reopened, and some schools had to close down again. They also look at emerging evidence, like a study recently from South Korea that showed that children under 10 are both less likely to get the virus and less likely to give it to adults.

And the guidance also highlights the latest statistics here in the United States that as of July 21, less than one-tenth of 1% of all COVID-19 related deaths have been among children under 18, so a very low proportion. And finally, they get into a little bit more detail about the fact that when you do open up, you know, some people are going to test positive if the virus is circulating in the community. So what do you do about that? What is the protocol for closing, disinfecting, testing, tracing, quarantining?

GREENE: So where does this leave everyone - parents, educators, everyone trying to balance, you know, public health and also the desire to get kids back into these classrooms?

KAMENETZ: You know, as of right now, according to Education Week, of the 15 largest public school districts in the country, nine of them are beginning the year all remote. So even during the time that the president has been pushing for in-person school, cases are rising, and so I think the tide is really turning the other way. And even though parents are very - you know, feeling very caught without child care and their kids are not learning, they're also speaking about a lot of caution that they have about sending kids back to school while there's still some danger.

GREENE: NPR's Anya Kamenetz, thanks.

KAMENETZ: Thank you.

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