- President Donald Trump sounded eager to get schools opened soon during a phone call with governors, according to a recording obtained by Insider.
- “The young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through, so a lot of people are thinking about the school openings,” Trump said.
- Painting a rosy picture of his administration’s response to the coronavirus, Trump listened to governors’ needs by asking them to dial “hashtag two” to speak up during the call.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump urged governors to look at re-opening their states’ public school systems as early as possible during a conference call on Monday.
Trump praised the governors for their work and promised that improved testing capabilities were on their way to the states, and lambasted the media for what he called unfair coverage of him, in a recording of the one-hour phone call obtained by Insider.
Prompted on the call by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, who kept large parts of the state’s economy open through the pandemic, Trump urged states to think about opening their schools back up.
“Some of you might start thinking about school openings because a lot of people are wanting to have to school openings, it’s not a, a big subject,” Trump said on the call. “And the young children that are doing very well and this disaster that we’ve all gone through.”
Then Trump addressed Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the administration’s coronavirus response, who was also on the call: “They thought it would happen and I think it’s something, Mike, they can seriously consider and maybe get going on it.”
A little while later in the call, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said that his state likely would completely re-open schools this school year, because the state lets out from mid- to late-May. But he noted that the state is already having some students come back to school in small groups, for items like special education and vocational training, which requires heavy machinery.
“So we’re hoping at least for those last few weeks, the kids are taking classes that need the physical equipment, they can come in and smaller groups,” Polis said. “But we want to reconfigure it, you know, with better social distancing for next school year.”
The most recent about-face from Trump comes just days after he blasted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last week for his aggressive plan to reopen the state’s businesses. And it continues the president’s awkward dance between backing public health leaders calling for a longer national isolation period and business leaders pushing him to get businesses re-opened.
Kemp briefly spoke on the call, but did not address the spat with the president.
Trump also brought up the issue of schools reopening during a Monday press briefing – following days of internal debate over whether to keep holding the daily briefings, which resulted in his now famous suggestion that people consider injecting themselves with disinfectants. Trump later said he was speaking sarcastically, but states across the country reported spikes in calls to their poison control hotlines.
“Many are thinking about their school system,” Trump said Monday at his press briefing, when asked about his best advice for states reopening their economy. “Not a long way to go in the school system right now for this season, for this year, but I think you’ll see a lot of schools open up, even if it’s for a very short period of time. I think it would be a good thing.”
Trump’s dance with the states throughout the pandemic has frequently been fraught with tension and fighting, as governors have complained about the disjointed response from the federal government and Trump has even threatened to withhold critical supplies from governors who criticize him.
However, none of that tension flared on the one-hour call Monday.
Trump and the governors spent much of the time talking over the logistics of ramping up testing – something public health leaders in the response have said is an essential first step before things return to normal.
Throughout the call, Trump mixed up his Twitter vernacular with old-school conference call basics – repeatedly reminding the governors to hit “hashtag 2” when they hit pockets of dead air.
After about one minute of dead air on the call, as Trump reminded the governors to unmute their lines, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – a prominent Trump ally, in a critical swing state – jumped in and delivered an update on his state’s testing. He said that they can handle 700 tests per day, but are only getting about 100 people each day.
“Some of it is the lack of demand, because I think we would have the capacity right now,” DeSantis said.
Trump then accused the press of causing the lack of testing, “I’ve heard that from others, which I think means we’re doing a good job of getting these tests out, and at a level that nobody can believe. And, you know, unfortunately, the press doesn’t write that, they don’t take care, they don’t want to write, I guess you could say very easily, the truth.”