She was right about reopening schools and is now right about pre-departure testing.
It wasn’t just Republicans who successfully reopened schools earlier in the pandemic. Some Democrats did a good job as well. Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island’s former governor and President Biden’s current commerce secretary, was one of those Democrats.
Here was Raimondo in November 2020 talking about the harm caused by “letting kids stay home for a year and a half to languish.”
“I think there are massive long-term negative impacts on our children for keeping them out of school for a long time,” said Raimondo, whose two children attend private schools that have been open all fall. “Every child deserves that same opportunity. It shouldn’t just be for the parents who choose to and are able to pay tuition. … Throwing in the towel and letting kids stay home for a year and a half to languish — it’s just wrong.”
She noted, like many European public health experts were saying at the time, that controlled school environments were likely safer for children than the outside community.
Pointing to state data, Raimondo argues that schools, with their controlled environments, may actually be safer for children: About 1,245 of some 98,000 Rhode Island students attending school at least partly in person had tested positive as of Nov. 21; the state says most cases were transmitted outside of school. In contrast, about 950 of nearly 50,000 students learning remotely had confirmed cases.
And, in this clip that went viral among child rights advocates, Raimondo passionately called out school districts switching to remote instruction in her state.
Now, as the United States remains one of the last countries in the Americas, Europe, and even the Asia-Pacific to demand pre-departure coronavirus tests of travelers, Raimondo is once again saying what other Democrats — and even members of the Biden administration — won’t say.
Raimondo acknowledged testing is a “barrier” to tourism and that the United States is an “outlier” but did not forecast when those rules might be relaxed.
“I hear a lot about it from industry and I have been expressing that to the administration,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo deserves more credit — at the national level — for being right about pandemic issues. And, as Republicans elevate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for (correctly) reopening schools earlier rather than later, Democrats would be smart to lift up Raimondo in order to push back against the trope that Democrats were all school reopening villains.
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