White House privately urges governors to cancel college classes as Trump demands football
President Donald Trump during “chopper talk” on the South Lawn of the White House as he departed for Florida (screengrab)

Top White House officials have been privately urging governors to call off in-person learning -- even as President Donald Trump demands college sports.

The officials advised U.S. governors in a call Monday not to send infected students back home or they'd be risking another major outbreak of the deadly virus, after spending the summer months pushing to reopen campuses across the country, reported The Daily Beast.

“We know that what happened across the South [in June] was primarily driven by 18-to-25 year olds, across the South, with asymptomatic spread,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “Sending these individuals back home in their asymptomatic state to spread the virus in their home town or among their vulnerable households could really recreate what we experienced over the June time frame in the South. So I think every university president should have a plan for not only testing but caring for their students that need to isolate.”

An estimated 26,000 cases have already emerged at more than 750 institutions since the pandemic arrived in the U.S., with more than 1,300 at the University of Alabama alone, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shut down in-person classes for undergraduates just one week into the fall semester.

Despite those outbreaks, the White House has been pushing schools to open up campus and hold athletic events -- especially football -- despite their privately held concerns about public health.

“In general, we want to encourage, even when you have test positivity on campuses, we want to encourage universities to have students remain on or near campus and minimize the potential exposure to the larger community,” Vice President Mike Pence told governors on Monday's call. “We really believe — and I spoke to a university president just the other day — in suspending classes for a few weeks, have people study in their rooms, and ... that kind of isolation.

“We believe, let’s have the testing, let’s have the mitigation efforts, good practices in place,” Pence added. “But we really believe that remaining on or near campus is the best course possible for the overall health and well-being [of the community].”