EDUCATION SECRETARY BETSY DEVOS: “There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.” — interview on “Fox News Sunday."
THE FACTS: That's wrong. Although children are less likely than adults to develop COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has nevertheless counted tens of thousands of infections by the virus in Americans younger than 18. It’s premature to claim that there are no risks “in any way" seen in data. How significant a risk has not been established.
Apart from potential risks to kids, there is also the chance that they would spread the disease to more vulnerable adults, such as teachers, parents and grandparents.
DeVos’ false assurance overlooks severe COVID-19 illnesses and some deaths of children in the U.S., even though kids in general tend to get less sick from it than adults do. Doctors don’t know which children are at risk.
The CDC in April studied the pandemic’s effect on different ages in the U.S. and reviewed preliminary research in China, where the coronavirus started. It said social distancing is important for children, too, for their own safety and that of others.
“Whereas most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, serious COVID-19 illness resulting in hospitalization still occurs in this age group,” the CDC study says.
In May, the CDC also warned doctors to be on the lookout for a rare but life-threatening inflammatory reaction in some children who’ve had the coronavirus. The condition had been reported in more than 100 children in New York, and in some kids in several other states and in Europe, with some deaths.
The agency’s current guidance for communities on the reopening of K-12 schools says the goal is to “help protect students, teachers, administrators, and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19.” The guidance says “full sized, in person classes” present the “highest risk” of spreading the virus and advises face masks, spreading out of desks, staggered schedules, eating meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria as well as “staying home when appropriate” to help avert spikes in virus cases.
Last week, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said the U.S. hasn’t tested enough kids to actually know whether they may drive the spread of the coronavirus.