With the US school system in an upheaval since the pandemic began, several governors are beginning to take sides in the debate between national leaders pushing for children to attend classes in person and local officials hesitant to congregate students before it is safe.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out guidelines for reopening schools and will soon release more tools to help administrations and parents make decisions, but it is ultimately up to the school districts to decide what is the safest course of action for them, director Robert Redfield told CNN's Anderson Cooper Thursday night.
"We all want to protect the safety of the children that are in schools," Redfield said. "There's really a public health crisis we are paying by not having these schools open and I think we really need to get that balance."
Thursday brought 60,646 new cases a record number in a single day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The new high comes as many states set records in infection rates and hospitalizations and 33 states saw an increase in new cases reported compared to last week.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told reporters the numbers will determine if the state has to go back a phase in its reopening plan, in which case students may not return to the classroom as they currently plan to.
Arkansas has pushed the first day of school back from August 13 to 24 to give districts time to adjust to a blended learning plan, Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters Thursday.
In Florida, where there are particularly high instances of new cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Ron DeSantis weighed the increase of cases against the education gap that can come from students learning at home. If Home Depot and Walmart can be open, so can schools, he said.
And though the American Academy of Pediatrics ultimately wants students to be back in school, Florida's statewide mandate to reopen schools goes against their recommendations, President Dr. Sally Goza said in an interview on NPR's Morning Edition Wednesday.
"We know that it has to be safe, and we know that we have to try to decrease that transmission as much as we can," Goza said.
Staggering numbers show the pandemic is not over for the US
Although states have relaxed restrictions and more people have gathered in public spaces, the nation's leading infectious disease expert has been warning Americans throughout the week that the nation is still "knee deep" in the first wave.
"We've never really gotten out of it," Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with SiriusXM Doctor Radio airing on Friday.
North Carolina set a record Thursday for the highest number of hospitalizations and posted the second highest number of cases for the state, Gov. Roy Cooper said.
"We're continuing to watch with concern as COVID cases and hospitalizations increase," he said. "And though North Carolina isn't a surging hotspot like some other states, we could be if we don't stay strong in our fight."