Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems to not exactly have a firm grasp on the basic facts associated with the Coronavirus and schools. Recently, there’s been a national conversation underway about whether or not it’s safe for schools to reopen, which would be happening just weeks down the line and would also be happening amidst a major surge in Coronavirus cases across the United States. During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, DeVos firmly took the side of getting kids back in school at as high of a rate as possible, ignoring the very real dangers that are in place.
As CNN’s Manu Raju reports, DeVos claimed to CNN host Dana Bash:
‘There’s nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is dangerous to them.’
This claim is flatly incorrect. Raju adds that DeVos also “[downplayed] possibility kids can pass virus along to others” and “also won’t say if schools should listen to CDC guidelines.”
Betsy DeVos to @DanaBashCNN on @CNNSotu. “There’s nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is dangerous to them.” DeVos downplays possibility kids can pass virus along to others. DeVos also won’t say if schools should listen to CDC guidelines
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 12, 2020
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) itself reveals the wrongness of DeVos’s claims. In an early April report, the CDC explained that although “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, serious COVID-19 illness resulting in hospitalization still occurs in this age group.” Does DeVos not think that “serious… illness resulting in hospitalization” is concerning? Alternatively, is she just that ignorant about the basic facts of the situation? As of that April CDC report, 5.7 percent of all known pediatric Coronavirus patients had been hospitalized. That’s a hospitalization for over 5 out of every 100 Coronavirus-infected children and teens — and DeVos still has the gall to sit on television and claim that dangers to children are limited.
There’s also the issue of susceptibility to serious illness on the part of teachers. Children’s Coronavirus cases are often less severe than those of adults, but children obviously aren’t the only individuals on school campuses. According to the Kaiser Foundation, some one in four teachers have a pre-existing condition that makes them extra susceptible to serious illness if infected with the Coronavirus — but DeVos didn’t have a plan to address that issue, either. DeVos called the issue “something for [teachers] to work out with their local district.” What exactly does she think her job is if not to offer support to local districts in times of national crisis like the current situation?
According to the Kaiser Foundation, one in four teachers have a condition that puts them at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus. https://t.co/VcVSejXd4a
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) July 12, 2020
DeVos defended her perspective with grandiose, culture war-oriented arguments. She implied that some people who may be concerned about schools reopening are simply “not intent” on that happening, which is incorrect. It’s not a matter of political will. It’s a matter of staying alive and healthy or not.
‘The American Academy of Pediatrics has said the same thing. Kids need to be in school; they need to be learning. They need to be moving ahead, and we can not be paralyzed and not allow that or not be intent on that happening.’
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls on schools to reopen despite CDC guidelines that say children meeting in groups can put everyone at risk: "There is going to be the exception to the rule. But the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall" #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/XDwaFdjLCX
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 12, 2020
Her comments come after Trump’s own long history of trying to dismiss the significance of the pandemic, which continues to reach terrible new levels within the U.S., while other countries have it under control.