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Politifact VA: Children Are Not “Almost Immune" to COVID-19

man cleaning desk
Des Moines Public Schools custodian Joel Cruz cleans a teacher's desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP via PolitiFact)

As Pres. Donald Trump pushes for a nationwide school reopening, PolitiFact Virginia editor Warren Fiske discussed his recent claim that children are "almost immune" to COVID-19 with Craig Carper, VPM's news director.

CRAIG: School doors are starting to open across the country and millions of parents are worried about the health of their kids.

President Donald Trump has been playing down those fears, saying there’s little risk students will catch COVID-19. Here’s what he said during an during an August 5th interview with Fox and Friends:

“My view is that schools should be open If you look at children, children are almost, I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease. So few. Hard to believe. I don’t know how you feel about it but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this. They don’t have a problem."

Warren, PolitiFact National looked into the President’s claim that children are almost immune to COVID-19. What did they find?

WARREN: The president is using the term "immune" to suggest children won’t get sick.

But it’s clear that kids do get infected, although their symptoms usually aren’t as serious as those for older adults.

And three infectious disease experts PolitiFact interviewed pointed to a variety of evidence which, they say, proves Trump is wrong.

CRAIG: What’s the evidence?

WARREN:  Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that children account for 7.3% of COVID-19 cases. Kids account for less than 1% of deaths. 

By kids, they mean younger than 18.

But this data covers a time period when millions of children stayed home and did their classes online. 

So we don’t know what’ll happen when kids return to school buildings. 

Most of the large school systems across the country have chosen to start the year with virtual instruction. That includes Richmond, Henrico Chesterfield and Hanover.

But some schools that already have opened in Georgia, Indiana and Mississippi have students who are testing positive and have to quarantine them and other kids they’ve had contact with.

CRAIG: I’ve read about that.

WARREN: Experts also point to the fast spread of COVID-19 at an overnight camp in Georgia. 260 of the 344 campers who were tested were positive. That’s 76 percent.

In Israel - after schools opened in late May - outbreaks caused hundreds of schools to close. 

And just yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association reported 97,000 children tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks of July.

CRAIG: Is there any support for the president’s claim that children are almost immune?

WARREN: The White House pointed PolitiFact to statistics showing the risk of a child dying from COVID is almost zero.

And it points to statements by CDC director Robert Redfield in favor of opening schools. 

But this is a sleight of hand. Trump wasn’t walking about a low risk of death for kids.

He was saying kids were almost immune to the virus and don’t spread it. That’s two different things.

Redfield’s statements don’t address immunity. And contrary to Trump, the CDC says on its website that kids can spread the virus - especially older ones.

CRAIG: Alright, so what did PolitiFact rate this?

WARREN: Trump says children are almost immune from COVID-19.

This is contrary to the finding of many experts. It ignores the spread of cases we’ve seen at an overnight camp and at schools in the U.S. and Israel.

And the White House, when asked to back the president’s statement, presents information that has nothing to do with child immunity.

So PolitiFact rates Trump’s statement False.