While President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed for all schools to reopen for in-person instruction, it seems his own son won't be able to physically return to the classroom anytime soon. Health officials in the Maryland county where Trump's 14-year-old son attends school have ordered all private schools to remain closed until October, meaning Barron Trump's school won't reopen for in-person instruction this fall.
"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have based our decisions on science and data," Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said Friday in a statement announcing his order. "At this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers. We have seen increases in transmission rates for COVID-19 in the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia, particularly in younger age groups, and this step is necessary to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents."
Under the order, all nonpublic schools in Montgomery County are to remain closed to in-person instruction until at least Oct. 1. Gayles said in his statement that he would will re-evaluate the county's coronavirus cases and community spread ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline to determine if it will be safe for schools to reopen physically.
According to the Associated Press, Barron attends St. Andrew's Episcopal School, a small private college preparatory school in Potomac, Maryland, which falls within Montgomery County. According to its website, the school had previously been preparing to reopen under two possible education models: fully remote learning or a hybrid model that would see students attend school in person a few days a week and learn from home on the other days. The school was not expected to announce their finalized reopening plan until sometime next week.
In July, Trump told reporters he was "comfortable" with the idea of sending Barron and his school-age grandchildren back into classrooms amid the coronavirus pandemic. "I am comfortable with that," Trump said during a July 22 press briefing when asked if he was OK with the children in his family returning to in-person learning.
Trump went on to argue that children couldn't easily contract or spread the novel coronavirus and were less likely to get seriously ill. "They have very strong immune systems," the president told reporters. "They don't catch it easily; they don't bring it home easily. And if they do catch it, they get better fast."
While studies have shown that children appear less likely than adults to experience severe illness as a result of the coronavirus, more recent research has suggested older children can spread coronavirus just as much as adults. According to The New York Times, researchers from South Korea found that although kids under the age of 10 were half as likely as adults to transmit coronavirus to others, kids aged 10 and older were just as likely as adults to transmit the virus.
What's more, a recent study from researchers at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago found children aged 5 and below who had mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms actually had higher levels of the virus' genetic material in their noses than adults and older kids. Researchers believe this could suggest that younger children can transmit COVID-19 just as much as adults and older children. One thing researches can all agree on? More research is needed to fully understand how the novel coronavirus impacts children.
In Maryland, more than 8,370 people under the age of 19 have tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic first began in March, according to data provided by Montgomery County. Overall, the state has seen more than 88,000 positive coronavirus cases, 17,568 of which have occurred in Montgomery County.
While Trump has repeatedly called for schools to fully reopen, many states continue to grapple with how to tackle reopening plans amid surging coronavirus case numbers. While few disagree that in-person instruction has valuable benefits for students, many educators and parents have expressed concerns about the logistics of reopening schools in a way that protects the health of all students and staff.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.