Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley on Sunday said the nation should not be in a rush to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic and called for Congress to “lead in the absence of this Trump administration.”
“We cannot move too quickly on this. The consequences are too great to consider. This is about the public health,” the Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of The Union.” “What needs to happen is Congress needs to continue to act as the conscience of this nation and to lead in the absence of this Trump administration to provide reoccurring payments and to mitigate the financial hardships and the burdens that families are feeling. To continue to address food insecurity. But we should not rush to reopen schools.”
Pressley continued that teachers “have already proven themselves to be courageous and dedicated educators.”
“We are now asking them to be caseworkers and in some instances martyrs. And that is unconscionable. Again, we need to pass the HEROES Act which is sitting on the desk of Mitch McConnell which makes massive federal investments to support the reopening of our schools when it is safe and this virus is under control.”
President Donald Trump and members of his administration have pushed for schools to reopen in coming weeks even as the number of coronavirus cases has surged. Some schools districts have announced they would continue remote learning in the fall and some have said they would implement a combination of remote learning and in-person instruction.
Last week, White House officials and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sparred over the rollout of additional guidance meant to encourage school reopenings, creating another point of friction in a relationship that has remained tense throughout the pandemic response.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wouldn’t say during an interview with CNN last week if guidelines set by the CDC on reopening should be followed and said “kids need to be in school.”
“They need to be learning, they need to be moving ahead. And we can’t – we cannot be paralyzed and not allow that or not be intent on that happening,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union”.
Pressed repeatedly on whether schools should implement remote learning in the event that there is a flare-up of coronavirus cases in their district, Devos said, “I think the go-to needs to be kids in school, in person, in the classroom.”
On July 16, the country reported its latest single-day record with at least 77,255 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The second highest number was reported a day later: 71,558. Saturday’s number: 63,698.
There are more than 3.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the US and at least 140,120 people have died, according to a Sunday morning tally by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
This story has been updated with additional background information and context.
CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Sarah Westwood, Pamela Brown and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.