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AP Fact Check: Trump team’s false comfort on schools, virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s aides are misrepresenting the record on kids and the coronavirus as they push for schools to reopen.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday inaccurately characterized what the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said on the matter. A day earlier, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also was wrong in stating that the research shows there is no danger “in any way” if kids are in school.

No such conclusion has been reached.

Their comments came as Trump continued to spread falsehoods about a pandemic that is taking a disproportionate hit on the U.S. and is not under control.

A look at recent claims and reality:

SCHOOLS

McENANY: “Just last week you heard Dr. Redfield say that children are not spreading this.” — Monday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends”

THE FACTS: No, Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, did not say that. He said officials don’t have evidence that children are “driving” infections at this point. But they have not ruled out that children spread the virus to adults.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said last week the government doesn’t have enough data to show whether and to what degree kids can infect others.

The bulk of data has been collected from adults and particularly from those who were sick, leaving questions about children still unanswered, Birx said. She said children under 10 are the least tested age group.

The officials did not reach a conclusion that “children are not spreading this.” Nor does the evidence prove that they are.

The government has counted tens of thousands of children who have been infected with the virus and in some cases hospitalized. Overall, public health officials believe the virus is less dangerous to children than adults.

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DEVOS: “There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.” — Sunday on “Fox News Sunday.”

THE FACTS: Not so. Like McEnany, DeVos is suggesting certainty where none exists as she urged schools to provide full-time, in-person learning in the fall even with community transmission of COVID-19 rising in many parts of the U.S.

It’s premature to claim that there are no risks “in any way” seen in data. How significant a risk has not been established.

The CDC in April studied the pandemic’s effect on different ages in the U.S. and reviewed preliminary research in China, where the coronavirus started. It said social distancing is important for children, too, for their own safety and that of others.

“Whereas most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, serious COVID-19 illness resulting in hospitalization still occurs in this age group,” the CDC study says.

In May, the CDC also warned doctors to be on the lookout for a rare but life-threatening inflammatory reaction in some children who’ve had the coronavirus. The condition had been reported in more than 100 children in New York and in some kids in several other states and in Europe, with some deaths.

The agency’s current guidance for communities on the reopening of K-12 schools says the goal is to “help protect students, teachers, administrators, and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19.” The guidance says “full sized, in person classes” present the “highest risk” of spreading the virus and advises face masks, spreading out of desks, staggered schedules, eating meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria and “staying home when appropriate” to help avert spikes in virus cases.

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VIRUS

TRUMP: “Deaths in the U.S. are way down.” — tweet on July 6, one of at least a half dozen heralding a drop in daily deaths from the virus.

THE FACTS: It’s true that deaths dipped as infections spiked in many parts of the country. But deaths lag sickness. And now, the widely expected upturn in U.S. deaths has begun, driven by fatalities in states in the South and West, according to data analyzed by The Associated Press.

“It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. He advised Americans: “Don’t get yourself into false complacency.”

The new AP analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University shows the seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the U.S. increased to 664 on Friday from 578 two weeks ago, as deaths rose in more than half the states. That’s still well below the lethal numbers of April.

“It’s consistently picking up,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher. “And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to.”

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BIDEN ON TRUMP

BIDEN: “President Trump claimed to the American people that he was a wartime leader, but instead of taking responsibility, Trump has waved a white flag, revealing that he ordered the slowing of testing and having his administration tell Americans that they simply need to ‘live with it.” – statement Wednesday marking the rise in U.S. coronavirus infections to more than 3 million.

THE FACTS: To be clear, the government did not slow testing on the orders of the president.

Trump at first denied he was joking when he told a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on June 20 that he said “to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please'” because “they test and they test.” Days later he said he didn’t really mean it.

In any event, a succession of his public-health officials testified to Congress that the president never asked them to slow testing and that they were doing all they could to increase it. But testing remains markedly insufficient.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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