Senior officials battling White House over urgent risk of reopening schools
Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump (Photo: Shutterstock)

Public health officials are increasingly worried that states -- especially in the South -- are not seriously considering the coronavirus risks associated with reopening schools.

Trump administration officials have insisted to governors that reopening schools could be done safely, but senior officials have recently pressed White House officials to improve their messaging about the potential risks, reported The Daily Beast.

“If you have Trump going out there and saying everything is fine, there’s a risk that that’s what people are going to think going back,” said one senior official. “There’s a real possibility that counties won’t implement all the measures outlined in the [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines and will just say, ‘Look, we’re doing the best we can and that’s it.’ There’s no one to enforce that stuff.”

So far officials close to President Donald Trump have pushed back on those efforts, insisting that the risks of staying home again outweighed the risks of going back to school.

“Not only does the president want to see schools open safely but so do teachers, students, parents, and health professionals," said White House spokesperson Judd Deere. "We cannot allow our children’s mental and social development to be held hostage.”

It's increasingly clear that COVID-19 spreads most easily in crowded, enclosed spaces, and new research suggests children can transmit the virus more readily than previously believed -- but officials can't see the administration pivot away from downplaying the risks.

“So much emphasis has been put on supporting this idea of getting kids back to school that they aren’t going to backpedal down,” one senior official told The Daily Beast.