Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing criticism from teachers after claiming the coronavirus does not pose as serious a threat to kids and suggesting Florida schools could reopen as early as May.
"This particular pandemic is one where, I don't think nationwide there's been a single fatality under 25. For whatever reason it just doesn't seem to threaten, you know, kids," the governor said at a roundtable discussion on Thursday.
On its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that four people between the ages of 15 and 24 and one person between the ages of one and four have died. Cases of coronavirus-related infant deaths are also being investigated in Illinois and Connecticut.
"If you're younger, it just hasn't had an impact, so that should factor into how we're viewing this. I think the data on that has been 100 percent consistent," DeSantis continued.
He suggested that a possible reopening of schools could be accomplished in two-week increments, and noted that some districts in more affected areas would need to remain closed.
"If it’s safe, we want kids to be in school. ... Even if it’s for a couple of weeks, we think there would be value in that," the governor said.
In a statement, the president of United Teachers of Dade Karla Hernandez-Mats condemned DeSantis's statement, arguing that it would be dangerous to reopen until "the safety of our community is secured."
"The notion that reopening our schools is an option because “if you're younger, it just hasn't had an impact” is not only completely contradictory to what we know to be the facts of this pandemic, it is dangerous for our communities at large," Hernandez-Mats wrote.
In late March, Illinois's Department of Public Health reported the death of an infant who had tested positive for coronavirus. The child was less than one year old and passed away in Chicago, although the exact cause of death is still being investigated.
Several days later, a 7-week-old infant girl who died in Connecticut tested positive during a postmortem exam for COVID-19.
Experts are still trying to understand exactly how COVID-19 affects children.
According to Johns Hopkins Medical School, the virus "seems to have less serious health consequences for children than for adults," and it remains unknown whether kids with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk within their age group.
Nonetheless, children infected with coronavirus have reported symptoms such as fever, cough, sore-throat, difficulty breathing and diarrhea. They can also play a part in spreading the disease.
In her statement, Hernandez-Mats pointed out that in order to function, schools require the presence of adults. "It takes teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and a host of other folks to make sure they function and run accordingly," she said. "Many of them would be placed at great risk through this type of exposure, not to mention their families."
"For the sake of public safety and in the name of everything that is logical, we shouldn’t be entertaining the idea of opening our schools or any other public place that could further propagate this virus and jeopardize our health. Missing prom or other school events is not more important than staying healthy."