WHITE HOUSE - Classrooms should reopen quickly, U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday.
“I think you should absolutely open the schools,” said the president as he hosted the governors of Colorado and North Dakota in the Cabinet Room.
“It’s had very little impact on young people,” the president said of COVID-19. “But it’s the governors’ choice.”
Trump’s comments came a day after California’s state university system decided that classrooms would not reopen even for the new school year, beginning in the autumn.
Schools at all levels of education are closed in nearly every state, as well as in the District of Columbia. Many school districts have already announced they will not reopen for the remainder of the school year, which for most in the United States ends in June.
“We’re opening our country. People want it open,” said Trump.
'Not an acceptable answer'
The president took issue with comments made the previous day during a Senate hearing by one of the most prominent members of the White House coronavirus task force.
“He wants to play all sides of the equation,” said the president of comments by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci had warned the senators that states and cities will face serious consequences if they reopen public activities too quickly amid a viral pandemic.
“I think we better be careful we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects” of the coronavirus, Fauci said Tuesday.
“I was surprised by his answer,” the president told reporters in the Cabinet Room. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”
Professors and other teachers over a certain age, however, should perhaps “take it easy” for another few weeks, according to Trump.
The president said he has been speaking on the phone with Vice President Mike Pence as they keep their distance as a precaution.
“I miss him,” the president told reporters. “He was in the room with somebody who tested positive.”
Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, last Friday was confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.
Trump asked Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, to speak about efforts to reopen his state.
“We’re doing it in a safe way. All the stores are back,” said Polis, removing his mask as he spoke.
North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum, said his state was second per capita in the country behind New York in testing for the coronavirus.
“We handled the virus and really focused,” keeping 93 percent of business operating in the state, Burgum said.
Only three states have less population density than North Dakota.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said his department was “right on the shoulder of the governors” when it comes to reopening national parks.
“I hope everybody is listening. The parks are opening, and rapidly,” said the president.
Yellowstone, Grand Teton
Two of the country’s most iconic and popular parks, Yellowstone, located in three western states, and Grand Teton in Wyoming, will begin allowing tourists to return next week.
Public health officials caution that infection rates for the virus continue to climb in much of the country, while they decline in the hard-hit metropolitan area in and around New York City.
As of late Wednesday evening, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 had killed more than 84,000 people in the United States. The coronavirus had infected about 1.4 million.