Less than a week earlier, Florida’s education commissioner ordered schools throughout the state to reopen in August for in-person instruction at least five days a week.
In a tweet later Monday morning, Rubio reiterated that despite the risks, “at some point this fall kids need to be back in school.”
Despite the record-breaking number of infections, Rubio said most Florida counties will be able to safely reopen their schools on schedule.
“Florida’s an enormous state. We have 67 counties. I spent over a week now in northwest Florida where the vast majority of the counties could reopen. They’re not facing this,” Rubio said. “So I think in many of our counties the answer to that question is yes, we could.”
In the counties being hardest hit by the surge in cases, Rubio said he believed extra precautions should be taken – but he 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 measures to be able reopen schools and I think we need to be flexible about all sorts of things,” Rubio said.
“It isn’t going to be school the way we’re used to in normal times, but at some point you have to make those decisions on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis: What are the costs of not reopening schools, what are the benefits with regard to the virus for not opening schools,” Rubio said. “And I think in the short and long term the costs are extraordinary.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, agreed.
“I have no doubt we can do this safely,” DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday, CNN reported. “We spent months saying that there were certain things that were essential — that included fast food restaurants, it included Walmart, it included Home Depot. If fast food and Walmart and Home Depot — and look, I do all that, so I’m not looking down on it — but if all that is essential, then educating our kids is absolutely essential.”
President Donald Trump has pushed state leaders to reopen their schools in the fall, threatening to cut off funding if in-person classes don’t resume. Vice President Mike Pence said that the Trump administration is considering ways to use a potential additional round of federal coronavirus relief to provide “incentives” for schools to reopen their doors.
Teachers’ advocates have pushed back on the pressure to get kids back in the classroom, warning that reopening prematurely could pose risks.
The nation’s second largest teachers union last week announced it would launch a $1 million ad campaign aimed at lobbying Congress to approve additional funds to help schools prepare for reopening.