On Thursday, July 16, the day the US recorded its highest single-day rise in Covid-19 cases, taking that title away from the previous week, which took the title away from the week before that, the White House held a press conference in which it reaffirmed its plan to reopen schools.
During the conference, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about the reopening of schools, given that some school districts were deciding to go online only.
"The President has said unmistakeably that he wants schools to open. And when he says open he means open in full: kids being able to attend each and every day at their school. The science should not stand in the way of this," McEnany answered.
She quickly went on to contradict this statement, saying that the science was on the government's side.
"And as Dr Scott Atlas said — I thought this was a good quote — 'Of course, we can [do it]. Everyone else in the…Western world, our peer nations are doing it. We are the outlier here'," she added, referencing former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center's Dr Atlas, who was recently interviewed by Fox News where he decried the debate over schools going back while cases are spiraling across the US as "hysterical".
"The science is on our side here, and we encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science, open our schools. It’s very damaging to our children: There is a lack of reporting of abuse; there’s mental depressions that are not addressed; suicidal ideations that are not addressed when students are not in school. Our schools are extremely important, they’re essential, and they must reopen," McEnany finished.
Before we get to the reactions, we should probably mention that while it is true that countries around the world are reopening their schools – with social distancing measures such as partial reopenings, social bubbles for schoolchildren, and smaller class sizes – these are countries at very different stages of their outbreaks, and so are not comparable. Other countries have the outbreak under much better control and are not experiencing the vast increase in cases and shocking numbers every day that is currently being seen in the US, with no cohesive plan to curb the virus.
Though the risk to children is lower than for adults – particularly the elderly – it isn't non-existent. A recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests one in three young adults are vulnerable to the virus, and even those who do not exhibit symptoms can still spread the disease to others. Where schools have already reopened, there have been outbreaks. All the science is telling us when we are ready to reopen, we should use caution.
Of course, many news organizations have picked up on McEnany claiming science should not stand in the way of schools reopening. She objected to this on Twitter, implying that she didn't say those words, while quote tweeting a video where she is shown saying those words. You can even read the full transcript on the White House website.
"How dare the biased media quote my words directly."
Elsewhere, people were quick to react to her actual words. Here are some of our favorites.
And while you're here, check out somebody else who didn't think the science should get in the way.