Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Trump administration’s full-steam-ahead push to fully reopen schools this fall is on a collision course with the U.S.' skyrocketing coronavirus caseload and its decades-long neglect of public education.

Why it matters: Getting kids back to school is of paramount importance for children and families, especially low-income ones. But the administration isn’t doing much to make this safer or more feasible.

“They’re sort of asking schools to do the undoable — ‘just make it work, get all the kids back, and get them in five days a week, and keep their distance and do all the hygiene…but if you can’t do it, that’s not our fault, that’s up to the locals,’” said Anita Cicero, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The big picture: How to handle schools and daycare centers amid the pandemic is one of the most vexing questions around the world.

  • Keeping kids at home risks learning setbacks and prevents them from getting much-needed services, like food or special needs assistance. It also removes some 40 hours of weekly child care that working parents rely on.
  • But there’s no scientific consensus yet on how much children contribute to the spread of the coronavirus. In a worst-case scenario, schools could become one of the most effective ways the virus travels from family to family.

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of reopening schools is to reduce the virus' spread — but in several states, caseloads are instead skyrocketing.

  • Florida — one of the new epicenters of the pandemic — announced earlier this week that it’s requiring all "brick and mortar schools" to open "at least five days per week for all students,” per CNN.
  • In contrast, New York City, where the case count is low, announced yesterday that children will only be able to physically attend schools between one and three times a week, and there will most likely be no more than a dozen people in a classroom at one time.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that all school staff wear masks, and that students are kept six feet apart at all times. But teachers, schools and some politicians have deemed the guidelines unrealistic, and President Trump criticized them as “very tough & expensive.”

  • Both Vice President Pence and CDC director Robert Redfield said Wednesday the guidance is not meant to be a “rationale to keep schools closed.” The CDC will issue new guidance next week, Redfield said.

Yes, but: Implementing strong safety measures will require resources that many school districts don’t have, especially as the coronavirus economy depletes tax revenues.

  • The cost of stringent sanitation, personal protective equipment and new personnel would be astronomical.
  • “We want children to be back in schools,” said Will Hite, superintendent of Philadelphia’s school district. But the cost of additional cleaning and sanitizing alone could be an extra $60 million to $80 million.
  • Estimates show state budget shortfalls of about $555 billion over the next two calendar years, Wesley Tharpe, the deputy director of state policy research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, tells Axios, meaning states don’t have any extra cash to throw at the problem.

The bottom line: There’s no dispute that schools are incredibly important to children. “But the idea of sending kids back to indoor public places with large numbers of [people]... when the outbreak is raging at the level it was in April in New York and New Jersey — I feel like there is a disconnect there,” Cicero said.

Go deeper

Jul 24, 2020 - Health

CDC issues guidelines preparing for schools to reopen

Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines on Thursday, stressing the "importance of reopening America's schools this fall," saying K-12 schools are "an important part of the infrastructure of communities and play a critical role in supporting the whole child."

Why it matters: The reopening of schools has become a major debate in the U.S. as both parents and government officials weigh the pros and cons. The role that children play in spreading the novel coronavirus is still not known, but the CDC notes that death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults.

Updated 37 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 18,178,736 — Total deaths: 691,111 — Total recoveries — 10,835,789Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 4,698,335 — Total deaths: 155,331 — Total recoveries: 1,468,689 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. Politics: White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing — Pelosi says Birx "enabled" Trump on misinformation.
  4. Sports: 13 members of St. Louis Cardinals test positive, prompting MLB to cancel Tigers series — Former FDA chief says MLB outbreaks should be warning sign for schools.
  5. 1 🎥 thing: "Tenet" may be the first major film to get a global pandemic release.

Twitter faces FTC fine of up to $250 million over alleged privacy violations

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket

The Federal Trade Commission has accused Twitter of using phone numbers and emails from its users to make targeted ads between 2013 and 2019, Twitter said in an SEC filing published Monday.

Why it matters: Twitter estimates that the FTC's draft complaint, which was sent a few days after its Q2 earnings report, could cost the company between $150 million and $250 million. The complaint is unrelated to the recent Twitter hack involving a bitcoin scam.