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Trump's insistence on school reopening is missing one thing: A plan

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a "National Dialogue on Safely Reopening America's Schools," event in the East Room of the White House, on July 7, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP

WASHINGTON — President Trump appears to be making the same mistake with schools that he did when he called for the U.S. economy to reopen last spring: He’s not putting safety first.

On Tuesday, the president called for schools to be fully opened for the coming school year, and said he would pressure governors to do so.

“So we're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open. And it's very important. It's very important for our country,” Trump said yesterday at the White House.

Reopening schools is an incredibly complicated issue, as NBC’s Benjy Sarlin has written. Some public health experts have argued schools should reopen given the burden remote learning places on families. But there’s still no full consensus and lots of skepticism from families and teachers.

How do you keep teachers, students and their families safe? (Our June NBC/WSJ poll found 50 percent of voters with children under 18 saying they’d be uncomfortable about sending their child to school or daycare in August — and that was before the most recent spike in coronavirus cases.)

How do you pay for it? The White House still hasn’t said what aid schools can expect.

Do children need to keep six feet apart in the classroom and in lunchroom lines, as the Centers for Disease Control recommends? If so, that may force schools to keep some kids at home for space.

What happens if a teacher, principal or student tests positive for the coronavirus?

And should schools reopen in states and communities that have become coronavirus hotspots? (Dr. Matthew Heinz of Tucson, Ariz., told NBC’s Stephanie Gosk on “Today” that he would not recommend parents to send their children back to school tomorrow in Arizona.)

Trump hasn’t fully answered these questions.

“I think it's clear what the administration wants to do. I'm not certain how much the event from [yesterday] provides more clarity or any advice or information that’s actionable,” Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy at the American Association of School Administrators, tells NBC’s Sarlin.

It’s one thing to call for schools to be reopened.

It’s another to make it as safe as possible.

And we saw what happened when states, cities and communities reopened their businesses, bars and churches starting in May.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

3,012,396: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 56,383 more cases than yesterday morning.)

132,326: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,003 more than yesterday morning.)

36.88 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

More than 650: The number of coronavirus cases that have been linked to reopened religious facilities.

Nearly half: The share of employees at one Arizona ICE facility who have tested positive for coronavirus.

About 40 percent: The share of people visiting food banks who are receiving food assistance for the first time, according to nonprofit group Feeding America

2020 Vision: Breaking down last night’s N.J. primary results

Here are the notable primary results from last night’s New Jersey primaries, with the caveat that just 38 percent of the statewide vote is in, per NBC’s Decision Desk.

NJ-2: For November’s general election, it’s going to be GOP Rep. Jeff Van Drew — who switched parties — against Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher and the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

NJ-3: David Ritcher leads Kate Gibbs in the GOP primary for the right to take on Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J. in the fall.

NJ-7: It’s going to be Republican Tom Kean Jr. facing off against Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.

NJ-8: Rep Albio Sires, D-N.J., easily defeated his Democratic primary challenger from the left.

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

The college football season might be on the ropes, but there is guaranteed to be one big intra-divisional matchup on the calendar in Alabama this year.

In less than one week, Alabama Republicans will finally pick who they want to go up against Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., in the fall.

The primary race has been brutal, with a new ad from Jeff Sessions typifying the tone. In it, Sessions’ campaign ‘interrupts’ an ad from Tommy Tuberville to blast him as “Washington’s choice”; argues that “Alabama does not take orders from Washington”; and takes a dig at Tuberville’s coaching record by saying “he's quit or been fired from every job he's ever had.” One of those jobs was as head coach of Auburn, from which he resigned.

The problem for Sessions is that what makes Tuberville “Washington’s choice” is that President Trump has endorsed the former football coach, and has gone out of his way to criticize Sessions repeatedly. So on Tuesday, Alabama Republicans will be making the choice between Sessions, their former, longtime senator, and Tuberville, Trump’s choice.

The Republican senators who won't be attending the GOP convention

While President Trump’s planned convention is still set to take place in Jacksonville, Fla. — despite the state’s spiking coronavirus cases and the city’s mayor currently under self-quarantine due to exposure to the virus — some GOP senators are saying they’ll be skipping the RNC’s big event.

Two senators who frequently spar with the president, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, confirmed to NBC’s Hill team they will not attend the convention this August.

“Senator Collins never made plans to attend the convention because she has never attended the national convention in years when she is up for election,” Collins’ spokesperson told NBC News.

A spokesperson for Murkowski also said she 'can confirm that she does not plan to attend,' pointing out that Murkowski spends the August recess in Alaska every year. Murkowski did not attend the RNC in 2016.

Collins and Murkowski join Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander in their choice. Grassley said he wouldn’t attend due to the pandemic, and Alexander said he “believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had."

The Lid: Hello from the other side

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the majorities of Americans who aren’t siding with Trump when it comes to coronavirus fears.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was hospitalized last month for a head injury after a fall.

Biden racked up more delegates in the New Jersey and Delaware primaries.

Is the U.S. thinking about banning TikTok?

The New York Times looks at why Mary Trump wrote her tell-all book.

The Trump administration has formally given notice that it’s withdrawing from the World Health Organization.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Minneapolis police union leader — and why his influence is an example of how police unions around the country wield their power.

Drain the swamp? POLITICO tracks former Trump administration officials who are now working on K Street.