Like so much of the coronavirus crisis in America, school reopenings will likely be a lopsided and state-by-state issue. The White House decided that “schools need to reopen,” like if they just say it enough times, maybe it will happen and maybe it won’t be an enormous public health crisis on top of another public health crisis. Parents are scared to send their kids back to school, kids are scared to go to school and teachers are prepared to quit their jobs en masse if they’re forced to go back. And then yesterday, in the White House press briefing, this happened when a reporter asked press secretary Kayleigh McEnany about school reopenings.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on school reopenings:
"The science should not stand in the way of this.” pic.twitter.com/w6H9DM0uTV
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 16, 2020
“The science should not stand in the way of this.” That’s the quote making everyone scream. This is where we are: the Trump White House arguing that science is standing in the way of ordering children back to school in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Children are going to die because Donald Trump and his people think “science” is the enemy. I also find the second half of her answer curious: “Everyone else in the Western world, our peer nations, are doing it.” Yeah but our peer nations actually took the pandemic seriously and now those countries are reporting dozens of new cases a day, not tens of thousands.
Vanity Fair had a good piece about how crazy it is that how we’re four months into the American response to the pandemic we still don’t have a f–king national response. Here’s an excerpt:
“We need a g-ddamn federal response,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who ran USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance in the Obama administration, told me on Wednesday. As countries around the world that have managed COVID-19 have cautiously begun to shift back toward normalcy, the United States continues to break records of new reported cases. Among public health officials and pandemic experts that I spoke to, the blame rests squarely with the White House. “We need them to f–king do something. It really remains the biggest weakness and it is why we’re seeing this kind of a second spike when no other comparable peer country is,” Konyndyk added.
With Donald Trump unwilling to take responsibility early in the pandemic, the response was left to governors and local officials, creating incoherency and inconsistency across the country. Konyndyk likened the novel coronavirus to burning embers left out after a fire. When states moved too quickly to reopen, it was “giving the fire a ton more oxygen.” The surge in cases in states like Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, and California was sadly predictable. A spike in one state leaves every other susceptible. “We’re seeing right now the effect of having a 50-state approach to this pandemic and not a United States approach to this pandemic,” said Beth Cameron, a former civil servant who ran the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense under Obama. “We tried a patchwork approach. It failed. Now we need a unified approach.”
“This is horrifying, the situation we’re in right now, and is a direct result of a White House failing to take ownership of [its] role as the lead in a national disaster, a 50-state disaster, and to provide strong, clear policies that would guide an entire nation,” Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official in the Obama administration who played a critical role in the H1N1 crisis, told me. “Instead you had a president who was fighting the science, questioning the scientists, undermining what we knew would stop the virus, pushing for early openings and seeming untouched by the impact that this was having on the American public. Just seems impervious.” In recent days, Trump has appeared more focused on beans than the coronavirus crisis.
VF’s sources point out that the White House has spent much of the past week trying to discredit and malign Dr. Anthony Fauci, which we discussed. It’s true, and it’s part of the larger problem with the “federal response” – from the start, they treated the pandemic like a PR war they could win by mocking Democrats and doctors. And that’s it. That was their only plan. It’s so asinine.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.