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Trump: Teachers over age 60 may ‘have to sit it out for a while’ when schools reopen, but students should be ‘in great shape’

President Trump speaks during a Fox News virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, co-moderated by Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump was asked by a student during his Sunday virtual town hall with Fox News anchors at the Lincoln Memorial about how she could feel safe going back to school during a second wave of covid-19. He told her he thought she would be “in great shape” but that “a bigger problem” was older teachers being in their classrooms.

Trump answered questions from Fox’s Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum as well as from Americans about his government’s response to the covid-19 pandemic and other issues.

Responding to Rebekah Johnson from Minneapolis, in light of experts warning that covid-19 is not going away, he said schools need to reopen and that students would be fine, although they “may wear masks for a while.”

He also said teachers who are 60 or 65 may have to stay home when schools open. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those at high risk for severe illness from covid-19 are people 65 years and older, and people of any age with specific underlying medical conditions, including those with chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma and diabetes.

The percentage of America’s teachers who are 60 and older is not precisely known. The latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics says that in 2012 about 23 percent of America’s teachers were between the ages of 50 to 59 in 2012 and more than 7 percent were over 60. But since then, many teachers have left the profession, and others have joined.

There are teacher shortages in most school districts around the country, which would probably be exacerbated if older teachers don’t return to schools when they reopen.

Trump said in answer to Rebecca::

So when you go back — and you have one problem that is a bigger problem, and that’s teachers over 60 or 65 years old — the teachers. Because I think that Kristin [another student] or Rebecca are going to be in great shape, and they may wear masks for a while and they may be separated further than what they’re used to. And I think they’re going to be in great shape.

He was also asked by an educator why he uses “bullying words” when he speaks.

Carolyn Perkins asked: “The question I have is about your manner of presentation. Why do you use descriptive words that could be classified as bullying? And why do you not directly answer the questions asked by the press but instead speak of past successes and generally ramble?”

Trump responded by saying that he speaks that way because “I am greeted with a hostile press” and he is “treated worse” than President Abraham Lincoln was by that industry.

Here’s what he said about schools and teachers, according to a White House transcript:

FOX ANCHOR: So our next question is from a teacher in Chesterfield, Virginia.
VIEWER: Hi, President Trump. My name is Kristin Murray. I'm an algebra teacher in Virginia. We appreciate you and support you and all you're doing.
I would like to see what your ideas are for getting us teachers back into our classrooms. We don't want to be virtual teaching. We want to be in the classrooms with our students. So what's your ideas for getting us back in our classrooms and getting the doors open?
FOX ANCHOR: Before you answer that, Mr. President, just one second.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, please.
Q A lot of questions tonight, not only from teachers but also the other side: from students talking about COVID-19. Real quick, put them together here. Rebecca Johnson.
VIEWER: Hi, I’m Rebekah and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m going to be a freshman in high school next year, and I worry that coronavirus is going to come back. How will I feel safe going back to school if a second wave hits?
THE PRESIDENT: So when you go back -- and you have one problem that is a bigger problem, and that’s teachers over 60 or 65 years old -- the teachers. Because I think that Kristin or Rebekah are going to be in great shape, and they may wear masks for a while and they may be separated further than what they’re used to. And I think they’re going to be in great shape.
But we have to get our schools back. This virtual teaching is wonderful, and you know, frankly, it's taken a very positive step. I mean, I could say -- I've had now, essentially, board meetings and meetings with governors and other people with -- you know, using -- they call it “tele.” Right? “Tele.” And it's not bad, but there's nothing like having a meeting. I still think you're never going to replace that.
No, they're going to go back. We have to have our students go back to school. My biggest thing -- because I really feel the students are in great shape. They're going to be all of the things we have to do. All of the things.
But I do worry about teachers at a certain age. Rebekah is young and she’s going to be fine. Students are going to be fine. But I really think that -- you know, if you take a look, Kristin is going to be fine. But if you have a teacher that’s 65 or 70 years old and has diabetes, that one, I think, they’re going to have to sit it out for a little while --
FOX ANCHOR: But, Mr. President, overall --
THE PRESIDENT: -- unless we come up with the vaccine sooner.
FOX ANCHOR: Are you going to urge the nation’s universities and schools to go back in September?
THE PRESIDENT: I am. I want them to go back. We have to get our country back. Yeah. I don’t want to do this forever. I watched a very good governor, former -- former governor of Indiana preceding -- he preceded Mike Pence. Good governor. And he’s the head of Purdue. It’s a great school. And I saw him the other day. He wants to go back. He’s going back. Purdue -- big school, fantastic. They’re going back.
We have to go back. We have to go back. And whatever it is -- I would say, with the exception of teachers at a certain age, maybe they should wait until this thing passes. It will pass. You know, it’s going to pass. And a lot of people say, “We have to get the vaccine.” Well, certainly we do, and we have to get therapeutics. I’d rather have, right now, therapeutics that make people better. That’s where remdesivir is -- is really good.

And here is what he said about the controversy over his appearance at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to give a graduation speech, which requires all of the cadets to gather together to listen to him.

FOX ANCHOR: So, you were asked to speak at the West Point graduation. There’s been some pushback on that. Tammy Duckworth, a veteran, said it would be reckless.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they’re a Democrat. A Democrat.
FOX ANCHOR: So, are you going to do it? And do you think that it’s worth the risk for those families and cadets?
THE PRESIDENT: There's no risk. Are you ready? They wanted me to speak. I didn't want to speak. I -- you know, I love West Point. I grew up near it. My school -- and you know where I went to high school was right near West Point. New York Military Academy. So it was a mini West Point. Very mini.
But West Point is this incredible thing, incredible place. I love it. I know it well because, you know, I spent a lot of time at West Point. They wanted me to come and speak. Then they changed the date. I believe it's June 13th. And it's my honor to speak, but I didn't want to necessarily do it. What they're doing is they're coming back a little bit early. They're going to be fully tested. There’s -- they're going to be very, very spread apart.
I said, "I want their families to be there." You know, Mike made the commencement address. I did it last year at --
FOX ANCHOR: Air Force.
THE PRESIDENT: -- the Air Force Academy. Mike did it this year. There were no parents in a big stadium, and they were very spread apart, and it was fine. But they asked me to do it, and I agreed. The generals asked me, would I please do it. You know, I'm the President of the United States. They wanted to have it. The cadets all wanted it.

(Fixing the spelling of Rebekah Johnson)