President Trump pushes officials to reopen up schools this fall
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President Donald Trump kicked off a new pressure campaign Tuesday to convince state and local officials to open schools back up in the fall.
The decision of whether to keep schools and universities open during the pandemic has been mostly a local decision up to this point, and how to reopen them safely is still something education and health officials are sorting out.
Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams has more on this. The following is an edited transcript of her conversation with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.
Sabri Ben-Achour: Kimberly, what’s behind the Trump administration’s push here?
Kimberly Adams: The main argument is that it’s worse for kids to stay at home and stick to remote learning when compared to the overall risk of them getting very sick or even dying from diseases caused by COVID-19. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which joined Trump’s announcement Tuesday, is also warning about what this is doing to kids’ mental health an social skills, to be out of school for so long. There’s also the economic argument that as long as kids can’t go to school, it’s going to be hard, if not impossible, for caregivers to go back to work, and that will be a continuing drag on any economic recovery
Ben-Achour: With sharp increases in COVID-19 cases across the country, there is clearly a health risk if schools open too early, but what are the costs associated with returning kids to school and young adults to colleges?
Adams: I spoke earlier today with Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. She said between the extra teachers and nurses needed to have good social distancing, plus money for PPE, disinfectants and remote learning support, schools across the country need an extra $200 billion to safely reopen:
“We can’t do this out of the pockets of underpaid teachers, at a time, by the way, when school budgets are being slashed because our revenue source, the tax dollars, the tax base, has fallen off a cliff.”
Eskelsen García is frustrated by President Trump’s push to reopen partly because right now there’s not money attached to it.
Ben-Achour: What’s been the response to this push so far?
Adams: President Trump does have some health and education officials backing him up and saying the social and educational need for kids to be physically in school outweighs the risks. But several teachers groups and other health experts warn it’s too risky for students and teachers before there are better plans in place.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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