While concerns mount over children developing serious and at times deadly inflammatory conditions experts believe may be linked to the coronavirus, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday schools should “absolutely” reopen on time as COVID-19 has had “very little impact” on children.
“I think you should absolutely open the schools,” Trump said, according to U.S. News & World Report. “Our country has 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.”
Trump’s comments came one day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus taskforce, testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on reopening businesses and schools.
But Trump disagreed with Fauci’s expert assessment and called his answers unacceptable.
“I was surprised by his answer,” Trump said. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer especially when it comes to schools.”
Fauci said opening schools too soon could not only lead to a spike in infections, but further set back the economy. He also noted new symptoms found in children infected by COVID-19—among them severe inflammatory responses—are cause for concern and show the virus is still not fully understood.
About 100 children in New York State have come down with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, an inflammatory condition with symptoms including fever, rash, reddish eyes, swollen lymph nodes and sharp abdominal pain that resembles the rare childhood illness Kawasaki disease. Three of those children have died, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Cases have also been reported in other states including Louisiana, Mississippi and California, and in other countries including France, Switzerland, Spain and Britain, The New York Times reported.
A study published Wednesday in the journal Lancet provides the strongest evidence yet that the syndrome is linked to the coronavirus. In the study, doctors in Italy compared a series of 10 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome with cases of Kawasaki disease.
The authors found that over the five years before the coronavirus pandemic, 19 children with Kawasaki disease were treated at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in the Bergamo province. But from February 18 to April 20, the hospital treated 10 children with similar symptoms. The hospital is at the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak.
That number of cases in that period of time amounts to about 30 times the rate of the Kawasaki disease cases and suggests a cluster driven by the coronavirus pandemic, the study's authors said.
During his comments about schools reopening, Trump on Wednesday did express concern for educators, U.S. News & World Report reported. Nearly one-third of teachers in the U.S. are over 55 and therefore have a greater risk of developing severe symptoms when infected by the virus.
"If you're an instructor, if you're a teacher, a professor over a certain age like let's say 65 or maybe even if you want to be conservative, 60, perhaps you want to stay out for a little while longer," he said.