President Donald Trump has called on governors to reopen schools that were closed because of the coronavirus while taking issue with Dr Anthony Fauci’s caution against moving too quickly in sending students back to class.
The president accused the nation’s top infectious diseases expert of wanting “to play all sides of the equation”, a comment that suggested he is tiring of Dr Fauci and his interventions.
“I think they should open the schools, absolutely. I think they should,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
“Our country’s got to get back and it’s got to get back as soon as possible. And I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed.”
Dr Fauci had urged caution in testimony before a Senate committee on Tuesday, although he made clear that he believes reopening decisions will likely differ from one region to the next.
“We don’t know everything about this virus and we really better be pretty careful, particularly when it comes to children,” he said.
But he also cautioned that “the idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far.”
Dr Fauci later clarified that he was not implying students should be barred from returning to class until a Covid-19 vaccine is developed.
But his comments were nonetheless seized on by conservative commentators, as well as the president.
“To me, it’s not an acceptable answer,” Mr Trump said of Dr Fauci’s comments on Wednesday.
The president said the coronavirus has “had very little impact on young people,” although there is growing concern over cases of a mysterious inflammatory syndrome in young people that is thought to be related to the virus.
Mr Trump and Dr Fauci have publicly disagreed before, including on the effectiveness of certain drugs that have been tested to treat the virus.
He has also complained to aides and confidants about Dr Fauci’s positive media attention and his willingness to contradict the president.
But Mr Trump has also acknowledged that the blowback to removing the doctor would be fierce.
In his testimony, Dr Fauci issued a blunt warning that cities and states could “turn back the clock” and see more death and economic damage if they lift stay-at-home orders too quickly.
“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” he warned as more than two dozen states have begun to lift their lockdowns.