Trump calls California school closures a 'terrible decision'; Covid-19 deaths rise in 3 Southern states

US school districts have been confronted with a difficult choice of resuming classes or using only online teaching. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday (July 14) California's two largest school districts were making a "terrible mistake" by making students stay home for the upcoming term in the face of the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican president, in an interview with CBS News, said it was a mistake for Los Angeles and San Diego school districts to provide only online education for the academic year beginning in August.

"I would tell parents and teachers that you should find yourself a new person, whoever's in charge of that decision, because it's a terrible decision," Trump said.

"Because children and parents are dying from that trauma too. They're dying because they can't do what they're doing."

"Mothers can't go to work because all of a sudden they have to stay home and watch their child, and fathers," he said.

Trump, who has been reluctant to embrace mandatory face masks ordered by many US governors to control the spread of Covid-19, also told CBS Americans should wear them "if necessary".

Against the backdrop of rising cases and deaths, US school districts have been confronted with a difficult choice of resuming classes or using only online teaching, which many parents have called ineffective and burdensome.

School districts refusing to send children back to class in the fall, like those in California, are at odds with Trump, who has said he may withhold federal funds or remove tax-exempt status from schools that don't open.

Trump's campaign views the reopening of classrooms as a key to economic recovery and a boost to his re-election chances on Nov 3.

The nation's 98,000 public schools are a cornerstone of the economy, providing childcare for working parents, employing 8 million workers prior to the pandemic, and preparing some 50 million students to join the U.S. workforce.


Both Florida and New York state have said students will be allowed to return to school. New York is one of a handful of states where cases continue to fall and positive test rates are about 1 per cent - although it has seen by far the greatest number of deaths overall, at more than 32,000.

North Carolina's governor on Tuesday ordered schools to reopen if safety measures can be met but said districts can opt for online learning only.

The president's comments came as Alabama, Florida and North Carolina on Tuesday reported record daily increases in deaths from Covid-19, marking grim new milestones of a second wave of infections surging across much of the United States.

Florida, which has become an epicentre of the new outbreak, reported 133 new Covid-19 fatalities on Tuesday, raising the state's death toll to more than 4,500.

"We must all continue to do our part to protect Florida's most vulnerable and avoid the 3 Cs: closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings," Governor Ron DeSantis wrote on Twitter.

"Safeguarding the elderly and those with underlying health conditions will continue to be our top priority."

Mandi Hawke, who runs a small children's book company from her home in Broward County near Fort Lauderdale, said she recently made her first trip to the local mall in months and was "horrified" by what she saw.

"As bad as things are in south Florida, I feel they're only going to get worse. We are not getting a grip on this," said Hawke, 38.

Alabama reported a record spike of 40 deaths on Tuesday and North Carolina an increase of 35, bringing each state's total to over 1,100.

US Vice-President Mike Pence on Tuesday visited Louisiana, which reported nearly 13,000 new cases last week.

The state's attorney general, Jeff Landry, cancelled a meeting with Pence after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Landry said he had no symptoms and was taking medication prescribed by his doctor.

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