Texas, California governors take heat in battle over school reopenings
By Brad Brooks and Makini Brice LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday sought to reassure parents he is doing all he can to keep students safe as most schools in the state prepare to reopen next week. But a top adviser to Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden's campaign in Texas blasted Abbott, a Republican, for what he called a lack of planning and funding for safely reopening schools, especially with the statewide coronavirus positivity rate hitting a record 24.5% this week. 'What we learned from the reopening of the Texas economy is that if you don't do it right, people are going to die,' said Mike Collier, senior adviser to the Biden campaign in Texas.
By Brad Brooks and Makini Brice
LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday sought to reassure parents he is doing all he can to keep students safe as most schools in the state prepare to reopen next week.
But a top adviser to Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden's campaign in Texas blasted Abbott, a Republican, for what he called a lack of planning and funding for safely reopening schools, especially with the statewide coronavirus positivity rate hitting a record 24.5% this week.
"What we learned from the reopening of the Texas economy is that if you don't do it right, people are going to die," said Mike Collier, senior adviser to the Biden campaign in Texas. "Parents and teachers are being forced to make life and death decisions."
Polls show Biden in a dead heat with President Donald Trump in Texas, long a Republican stronghold but where the Democratic Party made significant gains in the 2018 midterm election. How Abbott handles the pandemic and the reopening of schools could have a big impact on how voters cast ballots in November.
Abbott defended his mandate giving local school boards the right to determine if and when schools reopen, curbing the power of local health officials to intervene and order schools closed if COVID-19 outbreaks occur.
The Texas governor said schools are ready and argued that in-person classes would not be a significant spreader of the virus if schools follow basic safety precautions.
"The ways that COVID-19 will most likely spread in the school setting is in gatherings after school is over," Abbott told a press conference after meeting with local authorities in Lubbock.
Abbott said a clear pattern has emerged across Texas in recent weeks, with people spreading the virus in smaller, informal gatherings with friends and family. He encouraged parents and teachers to curtail such gatherings of students and ensure they and their children wear masks.
Texas, like other states in the U.S. South, avoided severe outbreaks of coronavirus early on in the pandemic, but became hotspots in the second half of June after reopening their economies shortly after Memorial Day weekend.
Abbott urged all Texans to remain vigilant on safety precautions as Labor Day weekend approaches. "It's important people don't let their guard down like they did during Memorial Day weekend," which he said was a "big spreading" event in the state.
LEAVE IT TO LOCALS
While Texas moves ahead with in-person classes, a group of parents and Republican political operatives in California have gone to court to try and force Governor Gavin Newsom to reverse his order that schools in counties on the state's coronavirus "watch list" - which encompasses 90% of the state's population - stay shuttered this fall.
"What we're seeking in the lawsuit is that the governor get out of the way and let local parents, local school boards and small schools make these decisions themselves," Harmeet Dhillon, Republican National Committee member from California and lawyer who brought the lawsuit, said during a virtual press conference on Thursday.
Marianne Bema, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who lives in Los Angeles with her three school-aged sons, said at the press conference that online learning this past spring was disastrous for her children, and she does not make enough money to afford daycare if her children are not in school.
Another plaintiff, Christine Ruiz of Santa Clarita, who also has three school-aged kids, said she was pleased with a hybrid model mixing in-person and online instruction that their school originally had planned to roll out.
"Now that choice has been taken away from us," Ruiz said.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock and Makini Brice in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Daniel Wallis)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.