Few Americans disagree with the sentiment that kids need to be back in the classroom, but President Donald Trump and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson can’t seem to grasp that the mechanics are far more complicated than simply putting students behind desks. If handled badly — and the administration’s track record makes that a virtual certainty — an even worse explosion of coronavirus cases looms on the horizon.
In comments over the weekend, Parson and Trump minimized the effects that more coronavirus infections would have if students spread it to their fellow students. Parson seemed particularly blind to the complexities as he minimized the risks posed by fully reopening schools in a few weeks — at the same time daily infection rates are breaking records in his state.
“These kids have got to get back to school. They’re at the lowest risk possible. And if they do get COVID-19 — which they will, and they will when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals,” he told radio host Marc Cox. “They’re not going to have to sit in doctors’ offices. They’re going to go home, and they’re going to get over it.”
The last time we checked, school children don’t live alone at home. They have parents and siblings. Many have elderly relatives living there as well. While death rates are far lower among youths, that doesn’t mean exposure is risk-free. Kids with asthma or other health conditions can experience life-threatening reactions. The risk of hospitalization or death skyrockets for older people who might be exposed by infected children.
Teachers and bus drivers also would face overwhelming risk of exposure. Parson has yet to articulate a plan to protect them. Even something as logical as making masks mandatory in the classroom remains up for debate under Parson.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a likely challenger to Parson in the November general election, accurately criticized Parson’s remarks as displaying “stunning ignorance.”
Trump and Parson are so obsessed with manufacturing symbols of American normalcy and economic revival that they conveniently overlook the hundreds of thousands of lives they would place in harm’s way with hasty school reopening policies.
Trump continues threatening to withhold federal aid from school districts that fail to fully reopen in the fall. Members of Congress might have something to say about that because their consent is required for any change in the allocation of funds already approved by Congress.
On what planet are these two politicians living? A pandemic that once appeared to be subsiding is now spreading at unprecedented rates, almost entirely because Trump and GOP governors like Parson insisted on reopening sooner and more robustly than experts regarded as prudent. Now they propose to throw children — along with their teachers, parents, siblings and elderly relatives — into this deadly mix.
That’s not a reopening plan. It’s a plan for disaster.