INDIANAPOLIS — Vice President Mike Pence kept up the Trump administration’s push for reopening schools and universities, insisting Friday that it can be done safely even amid public worries about the health risks posed by the coronavirus.
Pence told a small audience at Marian University in Indianapolis that having children back in classrooms was a necessary step to seeing more parents returning to jobs. The remarks came even as President Donald Trump on Thursday acknowledged that some schools in virus hot spots may need to delay their reopening this fall.
“Opening up our schools again is the best thing for our kids,” Pence said. “It’s also the best thing for working families.”
The former Indiana governor heard administrators at the private Catholic university describe their safety steps toward starting the fall semester next month.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, joined Pence at the event.
Pence discussed the importance of in-person learning for at-risk students, citing resources for counseling and special needs and children who rely upon school lunches.
“The risk of the coronavirus to healthy children is very low,” Pence said. “It’s also important to remember that there are real costs, far beyond academics, to our kids if they’re not in school.”
The science of how COVID-19 affects children is unclear, as several studies suggest, but don’t prove, that children are less likely to become infected than adults and more likely to have only mild symptoms.
Updated guidance issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged school leaders to work with local officials to make decisions about the fall, taking into account the virus’ rate of transmission in the area. It laid out a range of measures depending on the level of spread. If there’s minimal or moderate spread, it recommends social distancing, masks and increased sanitation.
A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released this week found 46% of Americans think major adjustments are needed for K-12 schools to reopen. Another 31 percent think instruction should not be in person this fall.
Pence spoke at the university event after attending a fundraiser for Republican state attorney general candidate Todd Rokita at the suburban Indianapolis home of a supporter.