Trump press secretary downplays CDC data on children and coronavirus as White House promotes schools reopening

After new guidelines issue, Kayleigh McEnany says 'even if there is transmission ... we believe that students should be going back to school'

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 24 July 2020 19:39 BST
Even if there is transmission students should going back to school, White House says

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the administration's push to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic this fall despite a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention study that shows children ages 10 to 19 are as infectious as adults.

Donald Trump announced this week that the Republican National Convention will cancel its Florida portion of the event in August over Covid-19 concerns, but then argued that it is crucial for schools to return within the same time frame.

On Friday, McEnany claimed that "schools are a different situation, when you have children as the CDC guidelines clearly note, are not affected the same way as adults."

The CDC released its revised guidelines for reopening schools on Thursday, downplaying the risk of transmissions and arguing that "death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults."

"At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioural health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant," the guidelines said.

"Even if there is transmission – and later studies come out, let's say – we believe that students should be going back to school because the effect on a child we know scientifically they are not affected the same way as an adult," she said.

A report released by the agency earlier this month found that children under 10 years old were roughly half as likely as adults to spread the virus,

But "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.

The new 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 CDC argues that opening schools is necessary to provide children from lower-income families school-assisted "food programs, special education services, counselling, and after-school programs to meet basic developmental needs."

Instead of recommending the federal government make broad investments to bolster those kinds of programs for poor families, the CDC justified opening schools to be able to provide them.

That guidance 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.

The new guidelines marks a significant turn from the original document, which pointed to reopening schools as a "highest risk" factor for transmission and infections. It also warned the federal government of the immense financial burden to test and trace infections among students, faculty and families, as well as among students, as cases spike.

CDC director Robert Redfield was also pulled by the White House from appearing before a congressional panel to discuss reopening procedures.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force, called them a "sound set" of recommendations, he told The Washington Post on Friday.

Nearly 70,000 new infections were reported across the US on Thursday as the nation surpassed 4 million infections. The actual infection rate could be several times higher, the CDC confirmed this week. Nearly 145,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in