May 11, 2021

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Trump pushes universities to keep students on campus despite rising coronavirus cases, asks Big Ten football to return

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, September 10, 2020.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Thursday encouraged universities and colleges that reopened their campuses this fall to continue holding classes in person despite rising coronavirus cases, claiming colleges pose a lower risk to students than sending them back home. 

“It’s much safer for students to live on campus,” Trump said during a press briefing at the White House. “Rather than the alternative, the alternative is no good … going home, spreading the virus to high-risk Americans.” He said students want to be in school and their parents want them there as well.

Trump said his administration has reviewed data from more than 20 colleges, and “not a single student” who tested positive for the virus has been hospitalized. He presented a slide at the briefing titled “colleges and universities are extremely low-risk environments” that listed numerous universities with thousands of reported Covid-19 cases but no reported hospitalizations. 

“That’s a lot of people, that’s a lot of students, and not one has been hospitalized,” Trump said.

There have been reports of college students hospitalized from Covid-19 complications, however the number remains low compared to cases. San Diego County Public Health officials announced on Wednesday that a San Diego State University student had been hospitalized due to Covid-19, according to NBC 7 in San Diego.

In Kansas, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in late August that one of the state’s college students had also been hospitalized with complications from Covid-19, according to reports from 41 KSHB in Kansas City, an NBC-affiliate. Kelly said the student was believed to have a multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a rare condition seen among some people who have tested positive for Covid-19. 

A spokesperson for the White House wasn’t immediately available for comment regarding Trump’s statements. 

The president also said he’s “pushing” for Big Ten football to return after it postponed its season in August after a string of Covid-19 cases and fear of a second wave in the fall. Schools in the conference are mostly located in the Midwest, where some states have seen a recent spike in cases. 

“It would be a great thing for our country and the players and coaches want to do it really badly,” Trump said at the White House. “They have some of the best players, college players in our country and they want to get into the NFL and they want to make money in the NFL. And they’re not going to be able to do that too easy if you don’t get to see them play.” 

Trump has previously pushed for colleges and universities to reopen amid a string of outbreaks at institutions across the U.S. On August 19, Trump said that “there’s nothing like being with a teacher as opposed to being on a computer board” and said that the decision to close universities could “cost lives,” saying that young people could spread the coroanvirus to older Americans. 

The coronavirus is far more deadly for older people and those with underlying conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in June that hospitalization rate for people who test positive for the coronavirus in their 20s is under 4%.

However, many infectious disease experts and university officials have still shown concern because the virus could spread to neighboring communities and infect people who are at greater risk. 

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