U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration continued to make the case Friday for schools to reopen for the academic year, saying schools and teachers are "essential" despite a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases.
"It is our firm belief that our schools are essential places of business, if you will, that our teachers are essential personnel," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a news briefing Friday.
When asked why Trump is canceling the Republican convention but is encouraging schools to open, McEnany said children are "not affected in the same way as adults" and that “we can make precautions and take measures to protect” children.
Several studies have suggested that children are less likely to become infected by the coronavirus than adults and are more likely to have milder symptoms.
However, Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told the television program Today on Friday that it was "still an open question" on how quickly young children can spread the virus. She also said that children with underlying health conditions can "suffer terrible consequences" if they become infected.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said during a talk Friday at Marian University in Indianapolis that “opening up our schools again is the best thing for our kids.”
“It’s also the best thing for working families,” he added, arguing that having children return to classrooms is a necessary step to seeing more parents return to their jobs.
Presumptive U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Friday told the ABC television affiliate in Phoenix that Trump "just wants to order schools to open because he's afraid if he doesn't, it will hurt his reelection chances."
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that school leaders and local officials take into account the virus’ rate of transmission in their area in deciding when to reopen schools. It recommended that students return to in-person learning if there is minimal or moderate spread in an area.