President Donald Trump said Wednesday the federal government is sending 125 million reusable face masks to school districts across the United States as schools consider whether it’s safe to reopen this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to open up our schools and open up our businesses,” Trump said during a White House press conference on the coronavirus, adding that all school districts should be making plans for how to resume in-person education for students “as soon as possible.”
“To support the reopening of America’s schools, we provided $13 billion in elementary and secondary schools towards the CARES Act and CARES Act funding,” he told reporters. “We will provide up to 125 million reusable masks to various school districts around the country.”
Trump also announced new recommendations for schools reopening, including ensuring all students, teachers, and staff understand the symptoms of the virus and encouraging frequent hand washing.
Whether and how to reopen schools in the U.S. this fall has become a hotbed issue in recent weeks. The U.S. has the worst outbreak in the world with more than 5 million cases so far and at least 165,328 deaths as of Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Researchers say the role kids play in spreading the disease is still unclear.
Trump has pushed for schools to reopen as fall approaches regardless of the state of the outbreak in the U.S., saying last month that keeping schools closed “is causing death also.”
“The lower they are in age, the lower the risk,” Trump said on July 30 at a news briefing in the White House. “We have to remember that there’s another side to this. Keeping them out of school and keeping work closed is causing death also. Economic harm, but it’s causing death for different reasons, but death. Probably more death.”
Earlier in the day, Trump suggested that if some state or local officials decide not to reopen schools, he thinks the school funding should be reallocated to parents or other school districts.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all school districts across the state have been authorized to reopen for the fall semester, including New York City, the nation’s largest school district.
Cuomo said Monday that he is allowing in-person education to resume because school district planning doesn’t allow students to be surrounded by “hundreds of people the way you would be in a museum.”
In a museum or mall, “you’re walking past a continuous group of new people,” he said. The schools will “take protections, they are in an isolated place [and] in controlled circumstances.”
Cuomo is requiring school districts to provide details to the New York State Department of Health for remote learning, testing and contact tracing before reopening. Schools also need to set up a minimum of three education sessions with parents to go through their plans. However, larger school districts need five sessions for parents, he said.