Rubio says the cost of keeping schools closed is ‘extraordinary’

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, at the Russell Building on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call | fake pictures

Republican Senator Marco Rubio on Monday suggested that some high-risk Florida counties take “additional steps” to reopen schools in the fall as the state is affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we should be flexible about all kinds of things,” Rubio said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, while stressing that “the costs of not reopening our schools are extraordinary.”

The senator’s comments came a day after Florida reported the largest single-day increase in Covid-19 positive cases of any state since the crisis began. More than 15,000 cases were confirmed Sunday in Sunshine State.

Less than a week earlier, Florida’s commissioner of education ordered schools across the state to reopen in August to receive in-person instruction at least five days a week.

In a tweet later Monday morning, Rubio reiterated that despite the risks, “sometime this fall, children need to go back to school.”

Despite the record number of infections, Rubio said that most Florida counties will be able to safely reopen their schools on time.

“Florida is a huge state. We have 67 counties. I spent over a week in northwest Florida where the vast majority of counties could reopen. They don’t face this,” Rubio said. “So I think in many of our counties the answer to that question is yes, we could.”

In counties most affected by the increase in cases, Rubio said he believed additional precautions should be taken, but did not suggest that those areas should wait longer to reopen their schools.

For those areas, “I think we are going to have to take additional steps to be able to reopen the schools and I think we have to be flexible about all kinds of things,” Rubio said.

“It is not going to be school as we are used to in normal times, but at some point these decisions have to be made based on a cost-benefit analysis: what are the costs of not reopening the schools, what are the benefits with respect the virus for not opening schools, “Rubio said. “And I think that in the short and long term the costs are extraordinary.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican, agreed.

“I have no doubt that we can do this safely,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Thursday, CNN reported. “We spent months saying that there were certain things that were essential, which included fast food restaurants, Walmart, Home Depot. If fast food and Walmart and Home Depot, and look, I do all of that, so I am not belittling it, but if all that is essential, educating our children is absolutely essential. “

President Donald Trump has pressured state leaders to reopen their schools in the fall, threatening to cut funds if in-person classes are not resumed. Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration is considering ways to use a possible additional round of federal coronavirus relief to provide “incentives” for schools to reopen.

Advocates for teachers have rejected pressure for children to return to the classroom, warning that premature reopening could pose risks.

The country’s second-largest teacher union last week announced it would launch a $ 1 million ad campaign aimed at pressuring Congress to approve additional funds to help schools prepare for the reopening.

Rubio told “Squawk Box” that lawmakers in Washington, DC, need to do more to combat the spread of the virus and mitigate the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.

“I have no doubt that it does, particularly for smaller companies,” he said. “I think we are 90% of the way in terms of putting together some ideas on how to help really small companies with fewer than 300 employees or less, microtagged not only for payroll but also for the costs of paying for some of these adaptive technologies. they must comply with local regulations. “

He added: “We are going to have to be agile and flexible here, because as the impact of this virus on our economy evolves, our policies will have to evolve to keep up.”

– CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.