Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) accused Democrats of fear-mongering against reopening schools in the fall instead of listening to experts.
Crenshaw responded to a Twitter post by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Tuesday accusing the senator and other Democratic leaders for posturing on the safety of opening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration is pushing to reopen schools in the fall based on the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“Sending kids back to school during a pandemic and hoping for the best is not a plan — no matter how [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos tries to spin it. Forcing schools to reopen without the resources for them to do so safely endangers our kids,” Warren said.
Crenshaw responded: “Why do most experts disagree with you? Why does the American Academy of Pediatrics disagree with you? Democrats don’t ‘listen to experts,’ as they claim. Far from it. Their goal is to drive a narrative of crisis and fear.”
Studies show that the relative risk of the coronavirus increases with age and the presence of comorbidities such as asthma. Ethnicity and gender have also been shown to play a role in risk. But for adults under the age of 40, the risk of death from the virus is almost non-existent, according to a comprehensive study of 40% of the United Kingdom’s population released last week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for the virus also indicate that it is not a significant threat to children, though they may spread it to more vulnerable people.
President Donald Trump and DeVos have been pressuring schools to reopen in the fall to avoid lasting impacts on children’s education, as well as the mental and emotional pitfalls of keeping children away from their friends and teachers. The Department of Education has threatened to strip federal funding from schools that refuse to reopen for in-person classes.
Teachers’ unions are pushing back against reopening schools, arguing that to do so would place students, educators, and others at risk of contracting the disease. The California Teachers Association sent an open letter to state leaders on Wednesday saying that schools should not reopen until they are “safe” and can ensure proper social distancing and provide appropriate protective gear to students and staff.
In late June, the AAP announced that it would “strongly advocate” for schools to be reopened in the fall regardless of whether a viable vaccine is available for the coronavirus. The organization made up of child health specialists said that the ongoing shutdowns and distance learning programs have already had a “substantial impact” on child development.
“Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation,” the AAP said. “This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.”
The AAP added that children appear to not be significant spreaders of the disease itself, saying, “Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.”