Reopening American schools, and why Trudeau skipped a visit to the White House

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump listen during a "National Dialogue on Safely Reopening America's Schools," event in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

This was originally published as the July 8 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.

(CNN)They might not admit it, but America's kids need to go back to school. As the pandemic spirals out of control, the longest summer vacation on record is now threatening to become a lost year.

Donald Trump is here to help, though his new push to get kids and teachers back into germ-laden classrooms may be more about fostering a sense of normality to boost his reelection hopes. He is bringing the same defiance of science, politicization and wishful thinking to schools as he did to premature economic openings that worsened the Covid-19 disaster. "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" the President tweeted.
He's not wrong. Months of missed lessons risk seriously denting the education of a generation of children. Experts fear that emotional and mental problems and even teen suicides will reach critical levels if schools remain empty. Millions of poor American pupils get their only square meals of the day at school. And online learning pulled together in a rush is a poor substitute for classrooms.
Trump himself doesn't actually have the power to fling open school doors -- in public education, the buck stops with states. But presidential pressure is a powerful force. One of his top allies, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has already said schools will be open all day, every day, come what may.
    Most children don't get that sick with Covid-19. But teachers braving the classrooms every day will be at high risk. And what happens when kids take the virus home to parents and grandparents? School administrators and teachers unions are developing schemes to mitigate the infection risk through smaller class sizes, part-time lessons and online education. But as states and cities roll back reopenings, it's becoming harder than ever to envisage that the first day of school this fall will resemble any kind of "normal."

    The 'Trump of the Tropics' tests positive

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announces to the press on July 7 in Brasilia, Brazil, that he has tested positive for Covid-19.
    It's never too late to change your ways, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has learned after months of greeting supporters without a mask. More than 1.5 million Brazilians have been infected with the coronavirus, and Bolsonaro himself is among them, he announced Tuesday. "I'm not going to see anyone for meetings," the President conceded to CNN Brasil after his diagnosis. "Everything will be done via videoconference and I will rarely meet people if I need to deal with more reserved matters."

    'If you are an American adult, it is more likely than not that China has stolen your personal data'

    FBI Director Christopher Wray came out swinging against China on Tuesday, CNN's David Shortell reports. "The Chinese government is engaged in a broad, diverse campaign of theft and malign influence and it can execute that campaign with authoritarian efficiency," Wray said during a speech at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington. "If you think these issues are just an intelligence issue, or a government problem, or a nuisance largely just for big corporations who can take care of themselves—you could not be more wrong. It's the people of the United States who are the victims of what amounts to Chinese theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history," he said. "If you are an American adult, it is more likely than not that China has stolen your personal data."

    Safe and sound north of the border

    He would have likely been forgiven for skipping the handshake -- but in declining an invitation to the White House this week, Justin Trudeau is sidestepping a whole minefield of Covid-19 etiquette and politics.
    While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador journeys to Washington for a celebratory get-together with Trump over the implementation of a new North American trade deal -- the USMCA, which replaces NAFTA -- Canada's Prime Minister will be conspicuously absent.
    He would have stuck out like a sore thumb, anyway. While Trump and López Obrador have never been seen in public wearing masks, Trudeau doesn't leave home without one. For him, it would have been like risking a lunch with neighbors who you know aren't taking the virus as seriously -- which is not far from the truth, as López Obrador dismisses mass testing and Trump pushes economic reopening.
    The curves of infection are moving in opposite directions in the US and Canada, and America's new surge has put Canadians on edge. Polls show the vast majority of Canadians want the US-Canadian border to remain closed to nonessential traffic, and anyone who does enter Canada has to quarantine for 14 days. Trudeau might have been exempt after attending the trade meeting at the White House, but his staff would not have been -- and their health and safety was likely a real issue in planning travel to the US. "We're concerned about the health situation and the coronavirus situation that is hitting all three of our countries," Trudeau said last week.
    For weeks, Canada has been logging just a few hundred new cases of Covid-19 per day. Just like in the US, some younger Canadians are skirting rules -- a few dozen people have so far been infected after a night out near Montreal. But unlike the US, Canadian contract tracing at such low numbers is viable and mostly thorough. A growing list of cities and towns are also helping to limit new outbreaks by making masks mandatory.
    Skipping a trip to the White House was an easy call for Trudeau. He's simply following the same coronavirus rule of thumb that governs all Canadians -- don't cross the border unless absolutely essential. -- CNN's Anchor and Canada Correspondent Paula Newton writes to Meanwhile

    'Donald was to my grandfather what the border wall has been for Donald'

    Trump's psychologist niece, Mary Trump, has a new book out titled "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man," which argues that the President's current behavior is the product of a toxic family dynamic and a bullying father. The demanding family patriarch, Fred, shaped the President by propping up his many failed endeavors, she writes: "Donald was to my grandfather what the border wall has been for Donald: a vanity project funded at the expense of more worthy pursuits." White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews responded Tuesday that "the President describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him. He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child."


    Presidents fear one thing above all: Bob Woodward.
      The famed reporter -- half of the Washington Post duo who brought down President Richard Nixon (along with Carl Bernstein, who filed this blockbuster for CNN last week) -- is on the prowl again. His last exposé, "Fear," stunningly lifted the lid on the chaos and feuding of Trump's early years in power. He has a new book coming in September, and this time around, the President is attempting to shape it by talking with Woodward, who has been spotted several times around the White House.
      Every President since Nixon has had to choose between talking to Woodward as he ferrets around in the administration or trying to discredit his damaging scoops. Trump has plenty of other things on his mind right now, including his own teetering reelection prospects. But judging by the marker-scrawled note spotted in Trump's jacket pocket on Tuesday by sharp-eyed CNN producer Kevin Liptak, Woodward is still casting his spell.