Jul 8, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Zachary Basu — is 520 words, a 2-minute read.

  • 🏖️ Virtual California ... Axios' Alexi McCammond and Dion Rabouin will host a virtual event about California's small-business recovery, tomorrow at 12:30 pm ET. Register here.
1 big thing: Classroom politics

Betsy DeVos and Mike Pence. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration is engaged in a full-court press to reopen schools this fall: The president threatened this morning to cut off federal funding if schools don't reopen, and claimed — without evidence — that Democrats want them closed through November for political reasons.

  • "Ultimately, it's not a matter of if schools should reopen — it is simply a matter of how," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said, assailing "elite" D.C.-area schools for their "disaster" of an attempt at distance learning this spring.
  • "They must fully open and they must be fully operational."

Why it matters: Virtual learning isn't as effective, and schools provide critical in-person resources for kids with disabilities, mental health issues and nutritional needs.

  • Millions of parents need their kids back in schools so that they can fully reenter the workforce. The burden of extended closures will hit hardest along class, racial and gender lines.
  • The question is how to reopen safely: So much is uncertain about the role of children in spreading the coronavirus, which could affect teachers and at-risk adults at home.

Driving the news: Vice President Pence said today that the CDC will issue a set of five documents next week on school reopenings, after President Trump criticized the agency's existing guidelines — which include keeping kids six feet apart at all times, if possible — as "very tough & expensive."

Between the lines: How and when schools return will be a decision left to state and local authorities. Pence said the administration will be "looking for ways to give states a strong incentive" as part of negotiations with Congress over a Phase 4 relief package.

  • New York City's 1,800 public schools will adopt a hybrid model that will limit in-person attendance to just one to three days a week, Mayor de Blasio announced today.
  • Others are likely to follow in the footsteps of the nation's largest public school system with an indefinite mix of in-person and remote learning.
  • But unlike New York, which has largely flattened its curve after getting hammered by the virus this spring, states across the South are still seeing a massive surge in infections that could turn schools into a petri dish.

The bottom line: Trump griped on Twitter today that Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden are reopening their schools.

  • The U.S. yesterday reported over 50,000 more coronavirus cases than those four countries combined.
Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

In Paris, professional mountaineers install posters featuring portraits of health workers on the facade of the Opéra Bastille.

2. Catch up quick
  1. Key impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is retiring from the military after "retaliation" from the White House. Go deeper.
  2. Harvard and MIT are suing the Trump administration over a rule that would largely bar foreign students from online classes. Go deeper.
  3. Former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith joins CNBC. Go deeper.
  4. The Supreme Court ruled that employers with a religious or moral objection to contraception don't have to cover birth control in their workers' health care plans. Go deeper.
3. 1 scream thing

A visitor to Tokyo Disneyland gets her temperature checked. Photo: Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

Japan's theme-park operators have issued a ban on screaming as they reopen roller coasters after a four-month break, "targeting thrill-seekers who might expel a burst of virus-carrying droplets," The Wall Street Journal's River Davis reports.

  • The ban, which is not strictly enforced, "inspired a trend on social media of people posting stone-faced, mask-clad photos of themselves on roller coasters with the hashtag 'serious face challenge.'"

Take the plunge.