The leading Republican candidate seeking to replace California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a recall election this month opposes efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among children in the state, including in schools.
Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host with no medical or scientific research experience, told CNN he doesn’t believe young people need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or wear masks in school.
“I don’t believe the science suggests that young people should be vaccinated,” Elder said in an interview with the outlet Monday. “I don’t believe the science suggests that young people should have to wear masks at school.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization with a membership of 67,000 pediatricians, plainly disagrees.
In guidance introduced this summer, the AAP endorsed an “all-encompassing” school reopening strategy that includes vaccinating all who are eligible and mask-wearing for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status.
“There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated,” Sara Bode, chairperson elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee, said in a statement. “This is why it’s important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19.”
“Universal masking is one of those tools, and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well,” Bode added. “It’s also the most effective strategy to create consistent messages and expectations among students without the added burden of needing to monitor everyone’s vaccination status.”
Elder also claimed in the interview that “young people are not likely to contract the coronavirus, and when they do, their symptoms are likely to be mild, and they’re not likely to be hospitalized, and certainly not likely to die.”
While it is true that, so far, children have generally suffered less severe symptoms from COVID-19 than older age groups, that conclusion rests on data from before the more contagious delta strain emerged. And it doesn’t mean we should intentionally fail to implement strategies that slow COVID’s spread, regardless of the population that’s affected.
With the spread of the delta strain, hospitalizations among children are at an all-time high. An average of 338 children a day were getting hospitalized for COVID-19 during the week of Aug. 23-29, CDC data shows.
More than 52,000 children have been hospitalized for COVID-19 since August 2020 ― accounting for roughly 2% of the total hospital admissions for COVID during that time.
Elder is no stranger to controversial health policy positions. He has previously advocated for abolishing Medicaid, has opposed making health insurance companies cover people with preexisting conditions and believes employers should be able to ask women if and when they plan to get pregnant.