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Politics Podcast: How COVID-19 Is — And Isn’t — Changing Politics – FiveThirtyEight



According to the latest polling, the spread of COVID-19 has disrupted the daily lives of the vast majority of Americans. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses how that broad effect has — and has not — changed partisan politics. They also ask how the pandemic has shaken up the 2020 general election.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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Analysis | The Trailer: How a bipartisan stimulus became a political stumbling block – The Washington Post



In this edition: The newly bitter politics of the Cares Act, the closing messages in next week’s primaries, and the president cancels a rally while donning a mask.

All of these newsletter items are cakes, and this is The Trailer.

The Cares Act, a $2 trillion stimulus bill designed to float American workers and businesses through the coronavirus recession, passed with almost unanimous support. If any government program might be robust enough to survive campaign politics, it would be this — an election-year deal between an unpopular president and a party that desperately wants to beat him.

Yet in the past week, “the single biggest relief package in American history,” as President Trump accurately labeled the legislation, has evolved toward the political fate of most other spending bills. Candidates who benefited from it, however indirectly, are accused of taking handouts; calls for another round of benefits have been muted. 

Less than two weeks before the bill’s expanded unemployment benefits expire, the Cares Act has emerged as a political stumbling block in House and Senate races. The Paycheck Protection Program, which provided loans that companies are to repay and has helped at least temporarily halt some business losses, gets attacked as a giveaway; unemployment benefits that added up to more than some workers’ salaries have become cautionary tales for Republicans.

“We knew there was a problem with enhanced unemployment, in that [in] certain cases, people were paid more than they made,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a Thursday interview on MSNBC. “We want to incentivize people to go back to work.”

In Congress, Republican jitters about more generous benefits have led to proposals for benefits that would go to fewer people, making less money — though Democrats are ready to cut more checks, even if a president they oppose would get a political win. In campaigns, meanwhile, a PPP program that made 4.4 million loans in an attempt to prevent businesses from laying people off has become a source of occasional embarrassment, with candidates getting hammered for benefiting from those loans, whether or not they supported the program in the first place. 

“I don’t think we ever dreamed that we would be providing financial assistance to political campaigns,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said after a news network reported that Christine Mann, a Democrat seeking a suburban House seat near Austin, got a $28,600 PPP loan. 

Mann, even before getting negative press for the loan, returned it. (Any company was eligible to apply for, and get, a PPP loan.) But more tenuous connections have become problems for other candidates, with the attacks usually seeking out hypocrisy. In Arizona, Republicans have attacked Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly’s business career and speeches; Kelly tweeted last month that “too many small business owners were left with no relief, especially those in tribal communities,” and that Congress should “ensure that the relief is getting to those who need it most.” 

When names of PPP recipients were published, a company co-founded by Kelly was revealed to have taken a seven-figure loan, as did Giffords, the gun safety group he ran until last year. Neither was a large corporation, but Kelly got whacked anyway.

“Mark Kelly tried to score cheap political points by criticizing the bipartisan success of PPP while quietly taking the money for his own large corporation,” Sen. Martha McSally’s campaign manager told the Arizona Republic, as Kelly retained a small stake in the company.

In Nevada, where Republicans are working to defeat Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, they’ve focused on her success in letting gaming companies obtain PPP loans, which came before her husband’s gaming company got a PPP loan to rehire employees. “Conflict of interest would be putting my personal interests above the interests of my constituents,” Lee told the Nevada Independent, which Republicans responded to with a nickname: “Swindlin’ Susie.” 

Candidates have largely been caught in the crossfire of PPP stories, which have frequently focused on large corporations or comfortably wealthy business owners who’ve benefited from a much needed bailout. There are echoes of what happened in 2009 and 2010, when the passage of the nearly trillion-dollar American Reinvestment and Recovery Act became a political football for Republicans. The difference then was that all but three Republicans, all senators, opposed that legislation; Republicans were so happy with this year’s legislation that the president, as he typically has done since the impeachment trial, held a signing ceremony that included no Democrats.

In ordinary times, bipartisan support for a program, or a bill, usually neutralizes the effectiveness of political attacks. For incumbents, the Cares Act has generally looked like a winner, with polling from both parties finding voters satisfied with Congress’s initial response and, for most of the spring and summer, optimistic about recovery.

But decades of skepticism about “handouts,” and about the winners and losers in any major government program, have led to an intermittent wide-scale shaming. That shouldn’t have been surprising. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who like every Senate Democrat backed the Cares Act, called for more transparency in the ongoing loan process, on the premise that the most powerful loan-seekers would crowd out small and minority business owners. 

“We knew PPP was broken,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington tweeted last month. Like many Democrats, she preferred a support system that was more generous for small businesses and workers and less so for large businesses, like the ones deployed in Europe. “We knew minority-owned businesses weren’t receiving help. We knew mass unemployment wasn’t being ended. And now, it’s clear the Trump [administration] has been completely corrupt with this program.” 

One month later, and after billions of dollars were distributed, coverage of a PPP success story — unemployment a bit lower than projected — has been nudged aside for coverage of whether some recipients didn’t deserve it. 

Was it inevitable? Worries about transparency for political money have been circulating for years. In the aftermath of the 2009 stimulus, many on the left argued that fretting about how handouts would look, and how grants to unsympathetic-looking projects would backfire, stopped the Obama administration from doing more. Obama’s vice president has proudly defended the 2009 approach, repeatedly contrasting the lack of controversy back then to the high-profile stories about big businesses or politically connected people getting loans now.

“I’m the guy that had responsibility of handing out $84 billion in the Recovery Act in the financial recession,” Joe Biden said this week in remarks near Scranton, Pa. “I met once every two weeks with the inspectors general. Everything was open. What are we finding out now? That large chains and hotel chains and chains of restaurants, they divided all the restaurants up and treated them as individual restaurants, they’re already making hundreds of millions of dollars. The mainstream mom-and-pop businesses, they didn’t get the money.”

There was little chance, in an election year, that the biggest stimulus package in American history would hit without controversy. But when Congress returns to respond to the ongoing crises, months of cynicism and negative spin may weigh more heavily than the feelings of March.

Reading list

“The once-mocked ‘Never Trump’ movement becomes a sudden campaign force,” by Ashley Parker and Robert Costa

Republicans against the president find some strategies that click and develop a ground game.

“What women want,” by Sarah Longwell

Lessons from focus groups of female former Trump supporters.

“Biden releases U.S.-centered economic plan, challenging Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda,” by Sean Sullivan and Jeff Stein

The Democrat’s “Buy American” plan was step one of a campaign rollout.

“When Val Demings stood by police officers accused of excessive force,” by Matt Dixon and Maya King

How a potential vice president spent her years as Orlando’s top cop.

“A onetime Alabama favorite son hopes to win back his Senate seat. Trump stands in the way,” by Eric Velasco and Paul Kane

Jeff Sessions on a rocky comeback trail.

“In the race for Joe Kennedy’s successor, an anti-Kennedy emerges,” by Daniel Boguslaw

The progressive battle for a safe Democratic seat.

“Trump’s drop in polls has confident Democrats sensing ‘a tsunami coming’ in November,” by Philip Rucker, Rachael Bade and Seung Min Kim

Democrats in … array?

In the states

Culture wars over statues, socialism and support for the president dominated campaigning over the weekend as Republicans in Wisconsin held their state convention and candidates in Alabama, Maine and Texas went to the wire for their runoffs and primaries. 

Wisconsin’s convention, scaled down from previous years but mostly held in person, was like a lot of recent Republican events ― specific criticism of Democratic nominees took a back seat to praise of the president and condemnations of “socialism” inside the Democratic Party. Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign adviser who leads the Black Voices coalition, told delegates that the president’s approval rating with black voters had crested 40 percent, a number seen in some campaign-friendly polls but not in the polls released by media outlets.

“The Black Voices for Trump coalition will be taking on Black Lives Matter, because we have the candidate with the policies that prove black lives matter, because he believes that all lives matter,” Pierson said.

Rep. Glenn Grothman, who represents a strongly Republican district in the center of Wisconsin, told delegates that the Black Lives Matter’s “Marxist” origins needed to be exposed and that Republicans needed to tell the story of how the president’s approach to policing had made the country safer, blaming unrest in cities on local mayors.

You have to remind the public of what a caring president we have,” Grothman said. “The day he leaves, you’re going to see a change in law that when a policeman goes to arrest somebody, they’re going to be looking over their shoulder.”

Democrats ignored much of what was said at the conference, though a moment when Grothman tried to say “Donald John Trump,” and was struck by a coughing fit, went viral. Instead of that, the state’s Democratic Party focused on a guest speech by Yuri Maltsev, an emigre from the old Soviet Union and current professor at Carthage College, in which he warned that the rising left would take America to the same dark places as European tyrants.

“There is no such thing as democratic socialist,” Maltsev said. “It’s the same thing as democratic Auschwitz.”

In Maine, where voters will nominate candidates for House and Senate on Tuesday, Republican House challenger Erik Brakey used a final debate to attack his opponents for getting support from organizations and donors that had been critical of the president; “accepting help from the very swamp he is trying to drain,” as he put it. In Texas’s deep red 13th District, where the Republican nomination is tantamount to election, former White House physician Ronny L. Jackson has emphasized his support from and for the president; challenger Josh Winegarner has accused him of using the district as a “backup plan” when Jackson’s career faltered. But Winegarner has been just as devoted in his support for the president, accusing Jackson of hurting the vice president’s wife.

“Mrs. Pence’s doctor said that Ronny violated federal privacy by revealing her medical condition,” a narrator says in one of Winegarner’s ads. “A homegrown Christian, Josh stands with Trump to build the wall.”

Alabama’s runoff, which will decide whether former attorney general Jeff Sessions has a path back to the Senate, ended with former University of Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville running out the clock. Tuberville’s “People versus the Swamp bus tour ended June 14, and he both declined Sessions’s challenge to a series of debates and stayed off the trail in the final weeks of the campaign. Sessions has closed out with a series of interviews, and with criticism of Tuberville’s role in a disastrous hedge fund. But the president backed Tuberville again on Twitter over the weekend, inspiring a final pre-runoff response from Sessions.

“I’ve taken the road less travelled,” Sessions tweeted. “Not sought fame or fortune. My honor and integrity are far more important than these juvenile insults. Your scandal ridden candidate is too cowardly to debate. As you know, Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”

Look for a rundown of all the July 14 primaries in the next edition of The Trailer.

Turnout watch

The Democratic presidential primary inched closer to its conclusion this weekend with votes in Louisiana and Puerto Rico. By the time the country goes to sleep Sunday night, just 60 of the party’s 3,981 pledged delegates, the ones from Connecticut’s upcoming primary, will still be unassigned.

Louisiana’s much-delayed Saturday primary ended with easy, unsurprising landslides for Joe Biden and President Trump. Biden won 80 percent of the 266,941 Democratic votes; Trump won 96 percent of the 204,175 Republican votes, one of his best results in any primary held this cycle. The quirkiness of this race, which was initially scheduled for the end of March, kept nearly every candidate on the ballot; Trump’s lowest total across the state was in Orleans parish, where 18 percent of Republicans backed either former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld or another protest candidate.

Biden’s primary came with its own quirks. Sen. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado, who quit the race in February after a poor finish in New Hampshire, won 6,163 votes — by far his best result, and likely thanks to the newsy endorsement of Louisiana-born strategist and celebrity James Carville. Yet Biden ran ahead of his statewide average in Orleans, East Baton Rouge and other high-population parishes with substantial numbers of black voters. He did worst in the parts of Louisiana that bolted the Democratic Party during his vice presidency, the heavily white “Cajun country” of Acadiana. Biden bottomed out at 41 percent in Cameron Parish, where just 199 Democrats bothered voting, down more than two-thirds from the competitive 2008 race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and down more than 50 percent from 2016, when Clinton rolled past Bernie Sanders.

For all that, Democratic turnout was closer to 2016, when both parties held competitive primaries, than Republican turnout. Compared with that year, Democratic turnout fell by 14 percent, while Republican turnout fell by 32 percent. But that’s not much of a preview for November. Democrats have not seriously contested Louisiana since 1996 and are not investing in the state at the presidential level this year.

Ad watch

Restoration PAC, “Joe Biden: Unsuited Then, Unsuited Now.” Republican megadonor Richard Uihlein is the main force behind this PAC, which plays more in Uihlein’s neighboring Wisconsin than his native Illinois. This spot focuses entirely on comments Biden made 33 years ago, browbeating a skeptical voter who asked him about his college grades and boasting, falsely, that he’d won an academic scholarship, a special award, and graduated in the top half of his law school class. “It’s new information to most voters,” PAC founder Richard Truax told

Candace Valenzuela, “Teachers.” A progressive candidate fending off more moderate (and controversial) House candidate Kim Olson in Texas’s 24th District, Valenzeula isn’t closing on an issue contrast. She’s closing on biography and focusing on Olson, who has led with her experience as a veteran, for her work on the Dallas Independent School District. “I remember when she fired hundreds of teachers, after we mismanaged the budget, one teacher says.

Tony Gonzales, “President Trump Endorses Tony Gonzales.” Texas’s 23rd District is one of just three seats won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 but held by a Republican today. Local Republican Rep. Will Hurd, a Trump critic, is retiring; Tony Gonzales is emphasizing his own support from Trump in the GOP runoff, emphasizing several times that Trump tweeted his endorsement, as footage shows the candidate cheerfully greeting a Border Patrol officer in the country’s biggest border district.

John Cornyn, “Liberal Royce West.” It’s a common tactic in modern primaries: Elevate the opponent that you think would be easier to beat. The surprise here is only that Cornyn, who hasn’t broken a sweat in any race since joining the Senate 18 years ago, would use that tactic. Here, he portrays West, a black state senator from Dallas who has struggled to raise money, as a “liberal politician” who supports “dangerous late-term abortions and would destroy the Second Amendment. West is the underdog in Tuesday’s runoff with MJ Hegar, a less liberal candidate. But in other attempts to boost a liberal over a candidate backed by national Democrats, Republicans have run afoul of cautious Democratic primary voters.

Poll watch

Battleground polls (CBS/YouGov, 1,099 likely voters; 1,229 likely voters; 1,212 likely voters

Joe Biden: 46% 
Donald Trump: 46%

Joe Biden: 48% 
Donald Trump: 42% 

Donald Trump: 46%
Joe Biden: 45%

Three polls that show the president tied or trailing in three states he won four years ago are also the best polls he has gotten in a while across some of those states. The news for Republicans isn’t terrible down the ballot, either, with Sen. John Cornyn leading either Democrat who might win this week’s runoff, and Sen. Martha McSally trailing for reelection by single digits. But voter movement since 2016 is generally against Trump, with the president doing worse with white voters and voters over 65 in every state; with nonwhite voters, he has held steady or lost a little ground. In Florida, without which a Trump reelection is nearly impossible, Hillary Clinton’s 27-point margin among Latino voters was smaller than Biden’s current 31-point margin. In 2018, when Republicans only narrowly won Florida’s key statewide races, the key was a decline for Democrats among Latino voters.

Candidate tracker

On Friday evening, shortly after canceling a planned weekend rally in New Hampshire, President Trump commuted the sentence of political fixer Roger Stone, who had been convicted on seven felony counts related to his work in the 2016 election and his subsequent obstruction of an investigation. Trump had hinted for months that he’d commute Stone’s sentence, even though the limited polling on the issue found it deeply unpopular outside the Republican base.

Joe Biden, who since securing the Democratic nomination has been judicious about commenting on Trump’s comments or scandals, responded with a tweet linking back to his own 2019 comment about Trump surrounding himself “with people who flout our laws.” He added a little to that on Saturday: “Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in modern American history. Every day that he remains in office, he further threatens the future of our democracy.”

There was no other campaign activity by the candidates over the weekend, though the president wore a mask during his visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, an event that his campaign quickly highlighted. It was not the first time Trump had worn a mask in public; he did so briefly during a visit to a Ford plant two months ago. But this was the first time people around the president made an issue out of the mask-wearing, with Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale matter-of-factly tweeting “America First,” and other campaign figures contrasting an image of Trump walking with a mask with some moments at a June event when Biden left his mask dangling by the strings as he answered questions.

“When the child finally does that thing you’ve been asking him to,” Biden spokeswoman Symone Sanders joked, pointing to the boastful Trump campaign tweets.

“Rather than taking responsibility and leading, he wasted four months that Americans have been making sacrifices by stoking divisions and actively discouraging people from taking a very basic step to protect each other,” Biden said in a statement.

Greens in disarray

On Saturday, it finally became official: New York labor activist Howie Hawkins won the Green Party’s presidential nomination. Victory was quick and decisive and came with plenty of discontent. 

Hawkins, 67, had clinched the nomination a few weeks earlier after a string of victories in the 19-year-old party’s primaries. The best known of eight candidates, Hawkins won 205 of 358 available delegates over the course of the year, and nothing — definitely not the occasional speculation that former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura might run — slowed him down. The party also affirmed Angela Walker, the Socialist Party’s 2016 vice presidential nominee, as Hawkins’s running mate.

On Saturday afternoon, introduced as “the original Green New Dealer,” Hawkins decried the limitations on ballot access still facing the party and said his campaign would appeal to the disgruntled voters who sit out elections.

“We’re running out of time on issues like the climate crisis and the covid pandemic,” Hawkins said. “Real solutions can’t wait.”

But Hawkins was pursued throughout the race by Dario Hunter, who repeatedly challenged the results of primaries that attracted few voters and accused the party of putting the fix in for Hawkins. On Saturday, after the Hawkins nomination was approved, he released a video encouraging voters to support him as a candidate for president, whether or not his name appeared on ballots.

“We reject the results of the Green Party primary as illegitimate,” Hunter said. “Our recommendation is this: That you vote for Dario Hunter and [running mate] Darlene Elias one more time, as independent Green candidates for president and vice president of the United States.”

Neither Hawkins nor Hunter is particularly well known, though Hawkins gained name recognition in New York after a series of campaigns for local and statewide office. And the Green Party has had more serious schisms. The current party grew out of a split between factions that came after the 2000 election, still the high watermark for the party’s popular vote total. In 2004 and 2008, the party’s best-known nominee, Ralph Nader, ran independent presidential bids that attracted some of the voters who might otherwise have pulled the Green lever.

In a news conference held Sunday morning, Hawkins told The Trailer that he’d run “a positive campaign” and his opponents, like Hunter, had run “negative campaigns against not just me, but against the Green Party.” Asked which states a Green campaign would focus on, Hawkins pointed to Maine, which offers ranked-choice voting. That allows voters, for example, to rank a Green candidate first and a Democrat second, letting the Democratic vote count if the Green does not win. Hawkins also pointed to Hawaii as a place where climate-change-conscious voters might be gettable and joked about “winning the advisory vote in Guam,” before saying the ticket would also try to win left-wing third-party nominations in other states.


… two days until runoffs in Alabama and Texas and the primary in Maine
… 36 days until the Democratic National Convention
… 46 days until the Republican National Convention
… 54 days until some absentee ballots start going out
… 114 days until the general election

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Canadians want courts, not politics, to decide the fate of Meng Wanzhou: Nanos survey – CTV News



More than half of Canadians oppose swapping Meng Wanzhou for two Canadians imprisoned in China, according to a new poll from Nanos Research on behalf of CTV News.

Additionally, the poll shows, Canadians want the federal government to be more aggressive in freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from their Chinese prisons, and believe the fate of Meng, a Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States on fraud charges, should be left to the courts.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested separately in December 2018, days after Meng was taken into custody in British Columbia, and charged with espionage last month. Their arrests have widely been seen as political retribution by China, though the Chinese government has denied this.

The idea of a prisoner swap gained steam in late June after a spokesperson for China’s foreign embassy suggested that Canada releasing Meng could affect the fates of Kovrig and Spavor. A group of 19 prominent former politicians and diplomats wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the same day, urging him to halt Meng’s extradition proceeding in order to secure the release of the two Canadians.

Trudeau emphatically ruled this out, saying that Canada should not suggest that arresting Canadians will allow other countries to get whatever they want from the Canadian government.

The new polling data suggests that Trudeau has popular support for this stance. Nanos found that 40 per cent of Canadians say they oppose a prisoner exchange, with another 16 per cent somewhat opposing it. Sixteen per cent say they support it, and 19 per cent say they somewhat support it, while nine per cent report being unsure.

Support for the prisoner swap was higher among Canadians aged 55 or older and men, and noticeably lower among Quebec residents.

The poll also reveals strong support for leaving the Meng extradition file with the courts. More than two-thirds of respondents – 68 per cent – said that is the venue where it should be decided, while 22 per cent said it should be decided by the government. Ten per cent were unsure.

Although there are arguments that the government has the legal authority to intervene in the court process, Trudeau has been advised that the specific power that allows this has never before been used for diplomatic or political reasons.

Another major finding of the poll is that when presented with a range of approaches for trying to get China to release Kovrig and Spavor, Canadians are most likely to support more aggressive government action that directly targets China, such as blocking Chinese companies from buying Canadian firms or denying entry to the country to Chinese government officials and their families.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents preferred those approaches, while 36 per cent said Canada should focus on diplomatic efforts, six per cent said Canada should ask the U.S. to intervene, and six per cent were unsure.

Residents of B.C. and the Prairies were the most likely to prefer Canada taking more aggressive measures against China, while Quebecers were the most likely to recommend a continued focus on diplomacy.


The observations in this polling data are based on an RDD dual-frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,049 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between June 28 and July 2 as part of an omnibus survey. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 time out of 20.

The poll was commissioned by CTV News and the Globe and Mail and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.



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Virus spread, not politics should guide schools, doctors say – KSTP



KSTP’s Complete COVID-19 Coverage

Still, health experts say there are too many uncertainties and variables for back-to-school to be back-to-normal.

Where is the virus spreading rapidly? Do students live with aged grandparents? Do teachers have high-risk health conditions that would make online teaching safest? Do infected children easily spread COVID-19 to each other and to adults?

Regarding the latter, some evidence suggests they don’t, but a big government study aims to find better proof. Results won’t be available before the fall, and some schools are slated to reopen in just a few weeks.

“These are complicated issues. You can’t just charge straight ahead,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during an online briefing.

Children infected with coronavirus are more likely than adults to have mild illnesses, but their risk for severe disease and death isn’t zero. While a virus-linked inflammatory condition is uncommon, most children who develop it require intensive care, and a few have died. Doctors don’t know which children are at risk. 

“The single most important thing we can do to keep our schools safe has nothing to do with what happens in school. It’s how well we control COVID-19 in the community,” Frieden said. “Right now there are places around the country where the virus is spreading explosively and it would be difficult if not impossible to operate schools safely until the virus is under better control.”

Zahrah Wattier teaches high school in Galveston, Texas, where cases and deaths have been spiking. Until the state recently said schools must reopen to in-person classes, her district had been weighing options many others are considering, including full-time online teaching or a hybrid mix.

Wattier’s school has mostly Hispanic and Black students, many from low-income families; almost 70% qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches and many have parents who work in “essential” jobs that increase potential exposure to the virus. Online education was hard for many with limited internet access, and Wattier knows in-person classes can help even the playing field.

But she’s worried.

“My school has over 2,000 students. That’s over 2,000 exposures in a day,” said Wattier, whose parents live with the family and are both high-risk. “It’s a lot to think about. It’s my job. It’s something I choose to do, it’s something I love. Now it comes at a really high risk.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, whose guidance the Trump administration has cited to support its demands, says the goal is for all students to be physically present in school. But, it adds, districts must be flexible, consult with health authorities and be ready to pivot as virus activity waxes and wanes.

“It is not that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks this is a done deal because we have put out guidance,” said Dr. Nicholas Beers, a member of the academy’s school health council. “But what we do know is that we need to have a more realistic dialogue about the implications of virtual learning on the future of children. We have left whole swaths of society behind, whether it’s because they have limited access to a computer, or broadband internet,” or because of other challenges that online education can’t address.

DeVos said local school officials are smart enough to know when conditions are not right.

“There’s going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school by school or a case by case basis.”

Following CDC and academy guidelines would mean big changes for most schools. Mask-wearing would be strongly encouraged for adult staff and students except the youngest. Desks would be distanced at least 3 feet apart; the CDC recommends 6 feet. Both suggest limiting adults allowed in schools, including parents, and canceling group activities like choir and assemblies. Staggered arrival and dismissal times, outdoor classes, and keeping kids in the same classroom all day are other options.

President Trump has threatened federal funding cuts for districts that don’t fully reopen.

DeVos defended that stance, saying, “American investment in education is a promise to students and their families.”

“If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds, and give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called DeVos’ comments “malfeasance and dereliction of duty.”

“They’re messing, the president and his administration are messing with the health of our children,” the California Democrat told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

While most funding typically comes from state and local sources, experts say schools will need more federal funding, not less, to reopen safely. Masks, extra cleaning supplies or janitors, additional classroom space, and mental health support for students and staff traumatized by the pandemic are among potential costs. And with more parents out of work, more children will qualify for federally funded school lunches.

Lynn Morales, 49, teaches 8th grade English at a high-poverty public school in Bloomington, Minnesota, that is considering several options including in-person classes; a final decision is expected Aug. 1.

Some colleagues are considering not returning to the classroom because their children’s day care centers aren’t reopening. Some say they won’t come back until there’s a vaccine.

“I am concerned and it’s because of the age group,” Morales said. ”Middle school students … are lovely and I love them, but they touch, they get close, they roughhouse. It is their nature. They’re 13 years old. They are defiant.”

“If masks are required and a kid isn’t wearing a mask, is my job description going to be to chase down this kid and insist they wear a mask? And what if they don’t?”

Dr. Emily Landon, a University of Chicago infectious disease specialist, is helping the university and a campus preK-12 school decide how to reopen safely.

“Things are evolving from, ‘We can’t do it unless it’s perfectly safe’ to more of a harm reduction model, with the caveat that you can always step back” if virus activity flares, Landon said.

Single-occupancy dorms, outdoor classes, socially distanced classrooms and mask-wearing by students and faculty are on tap for the university. Face coverings will be required at the school too. Policies may change depending on virus activity.

She dismisses complaints from some parents who say masks are a loss of personal freedom.

“It’s not harmful for your child,” she said. “If you see wearing masks as a loss of personal freedom, then you have to think the same of pants.”

Dr. Tina Hartert of Vanderbilt University is leading a National Institutes of Health-funded study to determine what role children play in transmitting COVID-19. Almost 2,000 families are enrolled and self-test every two weeks. The idea is to find infected children without symptoms and see how easily disease spreads within families. Results may come by year’s end.

“If we don’t see significant transmission within households, that would be very reassuring,” Hartert said.

She noted that in other countries where schools have reopened, evidence suggests no widespread transmission from children.

In France, public schools reopened briefly before a summer break, with no sign of widespread virus transmission. Masks were only required for upper grades, but students stayed in the same classroom all day. A better test will be when the new school year starts Sept. 1.

In Norway, schools closed in March for several weeks. Nursery schools reopened first, then other grades. Children were put in smaller groups that stay together all day. Masks aren’t required. There have been only a few virus cases, said Dr. Margrethe Greve-Isdahl of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, but she noted virus activity is much lower than in the U.S.

Kati Spaniak, a realtor in Northbrook, Illinois, says her five teenage daughters have struggled to cope with pandemic fears, school closures and deficits of online learning. She strongly supports getting kids back in the classroom, and all her girls will return to some form of that in the fall.

It’s been hard for her high school senior, Kylie Ciesla. Prom, graduation and other senior rituals were canceled, and there were no good-byes. “Just to get ripped away from everything I’ve worked for 12 years, it’s really hard,” Kylie said.

At college, classes will be in person, masks mandated and a COVID-19 test required before she can move into her dorm. Kylie isn’t sure all that is needed.

“I hate that this thing has become so political. I just want the science. I want to know what we need to do to fix it,” she said.

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