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Facebook removes 'harmful' video from Trump page claiming children are 'almost immune' as he echoes claim during press conference

President claims young patients able to ‘throw it off very easily’ despite growing evidence children just as capable of transmitting virus 

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 05 August 2020 19:27 BST
Donald Trump says children cannot get very sick from covid-19

Facebook has removed a video from Donald Trump’s page in which he falsely claimed during an interview with Fox News that children are “almost immune” or “virtually immune” to the coronavirus.

“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from Covid-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful Covid misinformation,” the platform said.

Asked about his remarks during a press conference on Wednesday, the president said that children are able to ”throw it off” and are less likely to get sick compared to adults, though the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts have found that children are equally vulnerable to transmitting the virus.

“I’m talking about, from getting very sick,” he said. “If you look at children, they’re able to throw it off very easily.....Children handle it very well. They may get it, but it doesn’t have much of an impact on them.”

Twitter later removed the Trump election campaign’s ability to post on the platform over a tweet which it said violated its rules on “Covid-19 misinformation”.

The social media firm said the @TeamTrump account’s permissions would only be reinstated if it removed a video of an interview with Fox News in which the president falsely claimed children are “almost immune” from the disease.

YouTube, through a spokesman, also said it had also pulled down the video for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policies, the Reuters news agency reported.

However, the original interview remains available on the Fox News page on the platform. YouTube did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters asking to clarify which videos had been taken down.

While Twitter has acted over Trump tweets before, Facebook has rarely intervened to remove misinformation on the platform, though it removed dozens of Trump campaign ads attacking antifascist demonstrators and “left-wing mobs” that contained a symbol used to by Nazis to identify political opponents.

“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organised hate,” a Facebook company spokesperson told The Independent. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”

In recent weeks, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also have removed a four-minute video from the president’s accounts over a copyright complaint, and Facebook and Twitter removed a manipulated video targeting CNN.

The administration has pushed for schools to reopen during the public health crisis following revised CDC guidelines that downplay the risk of transmissions among young people and stress that ”death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults.”

One CDC study shows children ages 10 to 19 are just as infectious as adults, though children under 10 years old were roughly half as likely as adults to spread the virus,

“Young children may show higher attack rates when the school closure ends, contributing to community transmission of Covid-19,” the authors wrote.

Middle- and high-school aged children also are at a similar risk of health risks as adults, the report found.

“Household transmission of [Covid-19] was high if the index patient was 10-19 years of age,” according to the report.

A series of recent studies about Covid-19’s impact among children reveals the scope of the disease and how it interacts among different populations.

The CDC has found that children under the age of 18 account for less than 7 per cent of the total case counts in the US and fewer than .1 per cent of all deaths. But children are still capable of becoming seriously ill and hospitalised.

In some cases, children developed a severe (and fatal) multi-system inflammatory syndrome that impacted Hispanic and black in 71 per cent of all cases, underscoring Covid-19’s disproportionate impact among people of colour.

Another report from the CDC in June, studying a camp in Georgia, found than nearly half of all campers (some as young as 6 years old) were infected within six days.

That study concluded that asymptomatic infection was common in children and “potentially contributed to undetected transmission” throughout the camp.

School systems, teachers, staff, students and families now are caught in a national debate over how, and under what circumstances, schools will reopen, over fears that schools will serve as minefields for contagion as the US emerges from a recent dramatic surge in new cases.

More than 4.7 million infections have been confirmed in the US, and more than 157,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The CDC’s latest guidance on reopening was published two weeks after the president criticised an earlier set of recommendations as “very tough and expensive” while an unreleased CDC document outlined the significant risk of reopening.

Its latest guidelines downplay the health risks and transmission risks of reopening schools despite ongoing health studies and debate over those risks, which are not zero.

The administration argues that opening schools is necessary to provide children from lower-income families school-assisted “food programmes, special education services, counselling, and after-school programmes to meet basic developmental needs” but has not recommended federal agencies make broader investments to bolster those kinds of services for poor families.

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