Coronavirus government response: Trump rejects Fauci’s caution on reopening schools

President Donald Trump on Wednesday rejected the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on how cautious governors and local officials need to be when reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“They should open the schools, absolutely, I think they should. And it’s had very little impact on young people,” Trump said, although new reports have revealed more cases of children stricken with a potentially fatal syndrome possible linked to COVID-19.

“It’s the governors’ choice, but their state is not open if the schools are not open,” the president told reporters, while hosting the governors of Colorado and North Dakota at the White House, continuing his drive for states to reopen.

Asked about Fauci’s concerns with reopening schools in the fall where there are localized outbreaks that might get out of control, Trump said Fauci “wants to play all sides of the equation.”

He made his comments after Fox News hosts attacked Fauci Tuesday evening.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded the Trump White House release highly anticipated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how states should safely reopen, which were reportedly shelved, as President Trump ramped up his push for the country to get back to work.

“The point is that America needs — and must have — the candid guidance of our best scientists, unfiltered, unedited, uncensored by President Trump for his political minions,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

“The CDC report on reopening the country is an important piece of that guidance,” Schumer said, calling on his colleagues to pass by unanimous consent a resolution requesting immediate release of the report, reportedly titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework.”

The White House on Friday claimed the guidelines, delayed for weeks, are still “in the editing process.”

While CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testified Tuesday that the new guidance would go online “soon,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the delay “isn’t very helpful” as his and other states reopen, many without waiting for a 14-day downward trend in cases Fauci and other health experts have warned was crucial to doing so safely.

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Here are Wednesday’s most significant developments in Washington:

  • Trump says ‘we have to get the schools open,’ claims Fauci is playing ‘all sides of the equation’
  • Schumer demands immediate release of CDC reopening guidelines reportedly shelved by Trump administration
  • Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, claims coronavirus crisis subcommittee ‘designed to go after’ Trump
  • House Democrats unveil new $3T relief bill with aid to states, direct payments to Americans
  • Wearing masks in West Wing now mandatory for White House staff after Pence press secretary, Trump valet rest positive
  • Trump says ‘we have to get the schools open,’ claims Fauci is playing ‘all sides of the equation’

    As schools around the country mull a return in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump said he “absolutely” thinks they should all reopen by the “third quarter,” adding that he won’t consider the country “back” until physical schooling is a part of it.

    “They should open the schools, absolutely, I think they should. And it’s had very little impact on young people,” Trump said, although new reports have revealed more young children being hospitalized with respiratory problems.

    “It’s the governors’ choice, but their state is not open if the schools are not open,” Trump said, sitting beside the governors of Colorado and North Dakota in the White House.

    Asked about Fauci’s concerns with reopening the country too soon, Trump said Fauci “wants to play all sides of the equation.”

    Pressed to clarify what he meant by all sides, Trump said he was speaking on schools specifically and didn’t think Fauci’s response to the topic on Tuesday was “an acceptable answer.”

    “I was surprised by his answer, actually, because, you know, it’s just, to me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” Trump said.

    “This is a disease that attacks age, and it attacks health,” Trump continued, adding that seniors may want to wait a few weeks before returning to school but repeating the claim that the virus has little impact on young people.

    Fauci, in congressional testimony Tuesday, did not advise that schools should stay closed but said a region’s ability to handle an outbreak should play a part in the decision to reopen schools.

    “It would depend on the dynamics of the outbreak in the region where the school is,” Fauci said Tuesday.

    He also said it shouldn’t be assumed that children are immune to contracting COVID-19.

    “We’ve got to be careful, if we are not cavalier, in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” Fauci said.

    Earlier Wednesday, President Trump said in a sit-down interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo that he “totally disagree[s]” with Dr. Anthony Fauci when it comes to opening schools.

    In a clip released Wednesday afternoon, Trump called Fauci a “very good person” but said that “young people are very little affected by this” and “we have to get the schools open.”

    Trump also said “we can’t keep going on like this” because “you’re having bedlam already on the streets.”

    The interview comes one day after Fox News hosts including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham launched an assault of Fauci on their programs Tuesday night, noting he isn’t an elected official, following the doctor’s congressional testimony and constructive criticisms of the country’s response to the novel virus.

    “He is not, and no one is, the one person who should be in charge when it comes to making long-term recommendations. This guy, Fauci, may be even more off-base than your average epidemiologist,” Carlson said Tuesday, at one point referring to Fauci as “the chief buffoon.”

    Jordan claims coronavirus crisis subcommittee ‘designed to go after’ Trump, as expert panelists emphasize testing and ‘a new normal’ in a safe reopening

    The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis held its first of several hearings with a bipartisan group of public health experts on plans to safely reopen the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Towards the top, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., thanked the committee members for sending their condolences after her sister recently died from COVID-19.

    “While I’m sitting here, my sister’s viewing is going on today in St. Louis,” Waters said with a somber tone. “Many families have been touched, and so I’m hopeful that we can all get together, Democrats and Republicans, and deal with this pandemic.”

    Soon after, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a strong Trump ally, used his three minutes to question the purpose of the committee altogether, claiming it is “partisan” and “designed to go after” Trump.

    “We’ve got eight different entities currently looking at oversight of the CARES Act and the coronavirus crisis, but we needed this ninth, and I would argue this ninth is political. It’s a committee designed to go after the president,” Jordan said.

    “The very first witness, two minutes ago, said it was inadequate testing that initiated the shutdown. I thought the shutdown was initiated to bend the curve so our health care system wasn’t overwhelmed. But we’ve already got a political statement from the very first witness,” Jordan continued.

    The first witness to speak, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, defended his opening statement.

    “Let me start off just by quickly responding to Congressman Jordan’s statement that my opening remarks were ‘partisan.’ They were not,” Jha said.

    “Every expert on the left, right and center agrees that we had to shut our economy down because the outbreak got too big, because we didn’t have a testing infrastructure that allowed us to and put our arms around the outbreak. And so testing was the fundamental failure that forced our country to shut down,” he explained.

    Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb also emphasized a phased reopening with testing, contact tracing and isolation — especially in vulnerable communities — and said new technologies can accelerate the process.

    “The reality is that we may need to define a new normal,” Gottlieb said. “There’s not going to be a defined end to this until we get better technology and drugs and vaccines, but we need to find ways to try to return to work, to return to the things that we enjoy, more safely and with greater vigilance than we did before — and there’s a way to do that.”

    All five panelists were in agreement that testing is essential to a safe reopening.

    The House hearing comes one day after Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on Tuesday criticized the federal government’s response to testing, calling it “nothing to celebrate whatsoever” after President Trump held a news conference touting his administration’s testing capability.

    Rick Bright to warn US will see ‘darkest winter in modern history’ without a ramped up response

    Rick Bright, the ousted director of the federal agency tasked with developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, is scheduled to testify Thursday before House lawmakers and expected to warn of a lack of preparedness by the Trump administration in responding to the virus early on, according to his prepared testimony obtained by ABC News.

    “Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Bright is expected to say Thursday. “Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.”

    The former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) filed a whistleblower complaint last week alleging he was removed from his post in retaliation for opposing the broad use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug frequently touted by President Trump, though it’s still unproven effective as a coronavirus treatment.

    ABC News’ Katherine Faulders

    Pompeo tweets photos of himself in Tel Aviv wearing a mask

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was photographed donning a mask for the first time in public since the CDC issued guidance on facial coverings when he landed in Tel Aviv Wednesday.

    Pompeo wore a red, white and blue mask, with stars and bars, when disembarking and as he was boarding again nine hours later.

    There were other signs of social distancing on his quick trip to Israel including bows and hands on the heart instead of handshakes, standing feet apart from his hosts and the spacing of audience chairs at the prime minister’s residence.

    Another sign of distancing came in the form of an absence. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman did not attend any of the day’s meetings, despite being a key architect of Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian policy. An embassy spokesperson said Friedman tested negative for COVID-19, but was experiencing “mild upper-respiratory symptoms” and stayed away “in an abundance of caution.”

    Like his boss, Pompeo has previously avoided wearing a mask in public. The State Department has refused to say whether he wears one at work in Washington.

    The secretary was in Israel for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the prime minister’s new governing partner, Benny Gantz, to discuss the coronavirus, Iran and Israel’s possible annexation of parts of the West Bank.

    ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

    What to know about the coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map
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