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Jill Biden Says Returning to Schools Is a 'Life and Death Issue'

Jill Biden has warned that children going back to school could run the risk of bringing COVID-19 home to their vulnerable relatives. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s wife said the country should listen to experts.

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The Quote

Biden told ABC15 Arizona on Monday:

“I think we have to listen to the experts. We have to be safe. So when the doctors and the scientists and the experts say it’s okay to go back to school, then I think we should go back…

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“This is a life-and-death issue. And I’ll repeat it again. We must listen to the doctors and scientists. We can’t have these children taking the virus back home to their grandma. Or their moms. And we can’t have teachers getting sick.”

Why it Matters

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Biden is a teacher who holds a doctorate in education and has worked in the field for 30 years. She was asked about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ push to re-open schools as soon as possible.

There is concern that sending kids back to school while the pandemic continues risks making the situation worse, sparking new outbreaks of COVID-19 and putting families and education staff at greater risk.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top COVID-19 adviser to the White House, has said schools that do reopen should take strict precautions to mitigate the risks and those in areas with high infection rates should “think twice” before bringing students back.

The Trump Administration wants society to swiftly return to normal, including children going back to school. While there are clear public health benefits of keeping kids off school during the pandemic, there are also a number of downsides.

For example, children’s education suffers, particularly those unable to learn remotely, which tends to be the poorest, and their life outcomes may be negatively affected. Working parents may also struggle to find childcare, causing a loss of vital income.

The Counterpoint

DeVos has been arguing that children should be able to attend in-person classes, stressing that it’s a “choice” for parents to make. She’s long been an advocate of school choice.

“Schools should be prepared to go back to school in-person, and that should be an option because we know for many families, that’s the right choice for their children,” DeVos said at a press conference in Michigan on Monday.

“We know that for every community, for every school building, the exact template will look slightly different, so we will continue to provide support and urge local leaders to do what they need to do.

“What we have been doing from day one is supporting states and school districts with as much flexibility as we’re able to grant under law from the federal level.”

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, speaks during a visit at Evan G. Shortlidge Academy on September 1, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. Biden visited the school and took part in conversations with educators on safely reopening schools. Biden has urged caution in re-opening schools. Alex Wong/Getty Images

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