ST. PAUL — In her first campaign appearance for Minnesota since she was nominated for the Democratic presidential ticket, California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris railed against the Trump Administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic — particularly for public schools, for which she said the president has "no real plan."
The vice presidential candidate was joined by Minnesota's Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and others for the Wednesday, Sept. 2, virtual Biden-Harris campaign event, where they discussed the struggles students, families and teachers face as they head back to school this fall, either in-person or remotely. Harris said for students distance learning, working parents are struggling to juggle parenting and work, especially if they can't work from home. And throughout the country, schools that are returning to the classroom in-person have already seen coronavirus outbreaks mere weeks into the school year.
"It’s a lot," Harris said of the sacrifices families and teachers have made in the pandemic. "But in return for their effort ... Donald Trump is offering no real plan to help schools reopen safely and he’s refusing to do the work of getting the virus under control."
She continued to say that the Trump administration "is attempting to bully schools into reopening," without providing adequate support and resources from the federal government.
"It is clear that our children’s safety is the last thing on Donald Trump’s mind," she said.
Flanagan echoed Harris, calling the White House's response to the pandemic "woeful," and said the anxiety around the state regarding school reopening plans is "palpable." More than 185,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
In Minnesota, Flanagan said state Department of Health and Education officials, along with educators and local governments, "make up for the lack of leadership that is coming out of the White House from Donald Trump and from the Senate GOP" to plan for the school year. But "we shouldn't have to do this alone," she said.
"I am grateful and proud of the work that we’ve done so far in Minnesota, but our country deserves a president and a federal government that leads, not just one that leaves it to states and teachers and families to just try to figure it out," she said.
Republican National Committee Spokesperson Preya Samsundar on Wednesday took aim at Harris and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for their lack of in-person campaign events in Minnesota so far in the election cycle. Trump himself has made five trips to Minnesota since assuming office in January 2017, and Samsundar said Minnesotans "appreciate President Trump and Vice President Pence standing with them in person."
Meanwhile, Minnesota Democratic officials have accused Republicans of flouting public health experts' and state mandates on coronavirus safety in a move to gain an unfair political advantage at campaign events. At campaign events for Trump and other down-ballot Republicans around the state, large crowds of spectators have been crowded together, many not wearing face masks, flying in the face of health officials' recommendations and Minnesota's statewide indoor public space face mask mandate. Democrats have been holding most campaign events virtually "to save lives," Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin said at a Wednesday news conference.
Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan retorted on Wednesday that "we’re not law enforcement" and, "If someone chooses to take off their mask for a period of time, that’s up to them."