ATLANTA - Softening his earlier stance, President Donald Trump on Thursday acknowledged that some schools may need to delay their reopening this fall as the coronavirus continues to surge.
It marks a shift from Trump’s previous demand for a full reopening of the nation’s schools. In recent weeks, Trump has said that it’s safe to open schools and that Democrats have opposed it for political reasons.
But speaking at a White House news conference, Trump said districts in some virus hot spots “may need to delay reopening for a few weeks.” He said the decision will fall to governors.
Even as he tempered his position, though, Trump insisted that every school should be “actively making preparations to open.” Students need to be in school buildings to prevent learning setbacks, he said, and to access meal programs and mental health services.
As long as they have necessary measures in place, he added, “many school districts can now reopen safely.”
Trump has made opening schools a key priority as he looks to restart the economy. Students need to return to the classroom so their parents can return to work, he has said.
His push has at times put him at odds with his own health officials. Earlier this month, he said school guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were too tough, prompting the agency to promise updated guidance.
The CDC on Thursday added new information to its website on opening schools, but it did not appear to remove any of its earlier suggestions. Much of the new material emphasized the importance of reopening schools, echoing many of Trump’s arguments.
The updated guidance urged school leaders to work with local officials to make decisions about the fall, taking into account the virus’s rate of transmission in the area. It laid out a range of measures depending on the level of spread. If there’s minimal or moderate spread, it recommends social distancing, masks and increased sanitation.
But in areas with substantive and uncontrolled spread, it says, school closure is an “important consideration.” “Plans for virtual learning should be in place in the event of a school closure,” the CDC said.
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