“There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” DeVos told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, contradicting statements by the World Health Organization on Thursday.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was met with a sharp and public reprimand after repeating President Donald Trump’s talking points around reopening schools during broadcast media interviews this weekend.
DeVos appeared on Fox News Sunday and CNN’s State of the Union parroting Trump’s agenda for opening schools in fall, despite having no clear, detailed plan to protect students, teachers, and staff from resurging waves of COVID-19. She doubled down on his threat to withhold funding if schools did not hold in-person classes, and diminished the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s safety guidelines, which Trump last week decried as “very tough & expensive” on Twitter.
“There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” DeVos told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, contradicting statements by the World Health Organization on Thursday. The WHO updated its guidelines to include the possibility of the virus spreading by airborne transmission, especially in enclosed spaces.
When questioned further, DeVos offered no counter evidence, instead replying, “We know that other countries around the world have reopened their schools and have done so successfully and safely.” Many of those countries—such as Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the rest of the European Union—have banned American travelers.
During an interview the same day on CNN’s State of the Union, DeVos also downplayed the need to follow Centers for Disease Control’s COVID-19 safety guidelines, calling them “flexible.”
““The rule should be kids go back to school this fall,” DeVos said, with a caveat for “little flare ups” to be dealt with on a case by case basis.
Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley responded swiftly on social media, tweeting “@BetsyDeVosED you have no plan. Teachers, kids and parents are fearing for their lives. You point to a private sector that has put profits over people and claimed the lives of thousands of essential workers. I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child.”
An internal briefing packet for federal emergency response teams obtained by The New York Times revealed government experts believe fully reopening K-12 schools to pose the “highest risk” of spreading coronavirus. Anecdotal reports suggest that healthy children are not as harshly affected as adults, but teachers and staff will be put in danger. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that almost 1.5 million teachers, or one in four, face a higher risk of complications if they contract the coronavirus.
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Forty states have reported growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks.
With cases spiking nationwide during summer, predicted to be the “quiet period” of the pandemic, there are fears the infection rate will increase in the fall.
DeVos admitted on CNN that schools in viral “hot spots” had to be handled individually, though she gave little in the way of detailing where or how.
“We’re not talking about places where it’s, quote, ‘out of control.’ We’re talking about the rule, not the exception. And where there are hot spots, in the future in the fall, of course, that has to be dealt with differently,” DeVos said.
In response to DeVos’ comments, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN that “the president and his administration are messing with the health of our children.”
On Monday, the education secretary garnered a fresh round of criticism from the National Education Association when Politico reported DeVos was planning to meet with members of the conservative Federalist Society in three different virtual meetings this week.
“Rather than working on a plan to reopen schools safely this fall, DeVos is holding closed-door political events for her ideological allies this week,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement.