As thousands continue to be affected by the novel coronavirus in the U.S., the Trump administration still lags behind in its response. According to data compiled by The New York Times, more than 4 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19. Despite this, Donald Trump not only continues to dismiss the severity of the pandemic but has been pushing for schools to reopen.
While health experts urge individuals to wear masks and abide by social distancing measures, Trump promises to reopen schools under the argument that children are too young to carry risk. While some have been quick to support Trump and his irresponsible behavior by protesting for schools to reopen in addition to protesting against mandates requiring children to wear masks, others have come to their senses and dismissed the president’s claims. Nancy Shively, an Oklahoma teacher who voted for Trump in 2016, not only said she regrets voting for Trump but shared that she fears for her life.
The special education teacher and self-described “lifelong Republican” wrote an op-ed forUSA Today in which she said she changed her voter registration and ended her “Republican identity” following Trump’s response to the pandemic. “When the pandemic hit, the incompetence of the man for whom I had voted and the complicity of everyone around him forced me to admit that I could no longer maintain any kind of self-respect as a Republican,” Shively wrote.
She added that she is not the only teacher afraid of falling victim to the virus and referenced a young teacher with chronic health issues. Many teachers have no other source of income and are thus left no choice but to teach and risk their lives amid the pandemic. “I am still haunted because, deep down, I fear that with the 2016 vote I may have signed my own death warrant.”
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Shively reiterated her thoughts, further criticizing Trump’s lack of leadership. “Well, just watching the failure of leadership in our country, beginning with the president, over the course of this pandemic, it’s not just my death warrant I might have signed, but there’s 150,000 Americans who are dead because of this,” Shively said. “I have to take responsibility for my personal vote that enabled that.”
Shively continued that education is historically underfunded, especially in Oklahoma. Opening schools amid a pandemic, she argued, puts pressure on both teachers and schools who “are already under underpaid in a system that’s underfunded.” Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t care how underfunded teachers and schools may be and stands by the misconception that children and young people are less susceptible to the virus. “The lower they are in age, the lower the risk,” Trump said at a news briefing at the White House on July 30. “We have to remember that there’s another side to this. Keeping them out of school and keeping work closed is causing death also. Economic harm, but it’s causing death for different reasons, but death. Probably more death.”
Although reports of children and young adults falling severely ill and even dying from COVID-19 have increased nationwide, Trump has repeatedly pushed to open schools across the country and threatened to cut funding to the schools that don’t reopen. Reopening schools is not only a risk for teachers and children to contract the novel coronavirus, but for those who care for and come into contact with them. While in-person learning is ideal for education, in the current circumstances reopening schools would not only create potential hotspots for the novel coronavirus but reverse any progress made, especially with mask mandates not being present in each state. “My school district has no mask mandate and two nurses for more than 2,400 students in five school buildings. How is that going to work?” Shively wrote.
According to Shively, cases drastically increased countywide and in her small Oklahoma town following Trump’s rally in Tulsa. While Shively agrees that it is important for children to be in school, she not only questioned the risks associated with opening schools but emphasized the lack of safety and protocol in place to ensure a spread will not happen. “Officials from the president down to the local school board are kicking this can down the road, pretending it will all be OK. Teachers know it won’t,” she said.
As of Aug. 4, at least 1,358 new coronavirus deaths and 53,440 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S. Since last week the U.S. has maintained an average of 58,820 cases per day, according to The New York Times database.