Donald Trump has vowed to push ahead with the reopening of America’s schools, despite the US suffering nearly 1,500 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, the highest number in a single day for three months.
A total of 1,499 deaths from Covid-19 were reported across the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The US continues to lead the world in infections and deaths, with nearly 5.2 million people having contracted the virus, and more than 166,000 having died since the pandemic started.
The parlous situation has not deterred Trump from agitating for the reopening of schools and businesses, however, with the president warning that children would suffer if they do not resume in-person classes.
Trump also threatened to divert federal funding away from schools if they didn’t reopen.
“We got to open up,” Trump said on Wednesday. “We got to open up our schools and open up our businesses.” The president added that children “often have only mild symptoms, and medical complications are incredibly rare – very, very, very rare. Those that do face complications often have underlying medical conditions.”
While young, healthy people appear less likely to suffer badly from coronavirus than older people, they can still spread it to others while asymptomatic.
Young people themselves are also not immune to severe effects – a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about a quarter of younger people do not recover from the virus for several weeks. Covid-19, the study states, “can be prolonged, even in young adults without chronic medical conditions, potentially leading to prolonged absence from work, studies or other activities”.
A separate CDC study specifically of children noted that they are hospitalized at a lower rate than adults from Covid-19 but, once there, they end up in intensive care at similar rates to adults.
Different schools around the US have opted for various approaches, such as online learning or reduced in-person attendance. In states where coronavirus cases have recently increased, a full reopening of schools has often gone awry – more than 1,000 students in a Georgia district have had to be placed in quarantine after a string of new infections.
The difficulty of opening schools safely was likened by Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor and a key Trump ally, to the challenges the US military faced in killing Osama bin Laden. Florida, where Covid infections have recently surged, has so far only provided permission for two school districts to conduct remote learning.
Polling has shown that most American parents are wary of sending children back to school with the pandemic still raging, with the vast majority favoring at least some online learning in place of standard classes.
The US response to the pandemic, however, has been blighted by a muddled governmental approach and contradictory actions by various institutions. Over the past week, a sheriff in a central Florida Covid hotspot banned his officers from wearing protective face masks, while in California a megachurch defied state orders by holding a Sunday service for thousands of people.