COVID-19 is more dangerous for children than right-wing media will admit

In effort to oppose CDC recommendations for masks in schools, right-wing pundits mislead about the risks of COVID-19 — and even suggest that children intentionally contract it

Right-wing media personalities are now railing against the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommending that all children in K-12 education wear masks when they return to school in order to protect against the harmful delta variant. And in order to make this point, they are minimizing the risks of COVID-19 to children.

While it has been known for a long time that children are less likely to die from the coronavirus, scientists are still studying the frequency of long-COVID in children.

Also, CNN reported this week that childhood hospitalizations have increased in Arkansas. There were 24 pediatric patients on Wednesday, “a 50% increase over any previous peak during the pandemic,” with seven in intensive care and two placed on ventilators. “We're seeing a real surge with the Delta variant that we did not see previously," Dr. Rick Barr, chief clinical officer at Arkansas Children's Hospital, told the network. “This is the worst that we've seen it for kids, absolutely.”

Barr also said that parents are “shocked because the messaging out there has been that kids don't really get sick with Covid.”

But on Thursday’s edition of Fox News  America Reports, Fox medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier continued to say that “we have ample data that shows us that children really are at a very, very low risk of a severe outcome from COVID-19” and insisted that schoolchildren should not be masked for safety.

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Citation From the July 29, 2021, edition of Fox News’ America Reports with John Roberts & Sandra Smith

DR. NICOLE SAPHIER (FOX NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR): Now, we don’t have good data when it comes to delta, we know it's much more contagious, and it’s causing higher viral loads. So, it's likely Delta would probably cause more symptoms in children than maybe some of those earlier strains. But until we have something showing us that COVID-19 is — can cause severe illness in children, I think the benefit of children wearing masks really does not outweigh the risk of these young children, less than 14, wearing masks all day. I think it's important to remove masks from them. At this point, any adult can get vaccinated, and they can still wear high-grade medical masks to further their protection if they so choose.

Saphier also objected to statements by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who had said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday that the delta variant “threw us a real curveball,” with children under 12 being unable to get vaccines yet.

“And when she says, ‘Well, we want to keep our children safe,’ well, you have to look at the data, OK,” Saphier said. “And I don't mean this in a crass way, but there have been less than 400 children have died of a severe outcome of COVID-19 — every single one of those being tragic. But more children die from RSV, another respiratory virus, every single year. They’ve never closed schools because of that. More children are dying from accidental drownings, and the CDC’s not recommending we close all pools.”

For his part, Fox anchor John Roberts had singled out Weingarten saying “we’re going to try to open up schools” and children under 12 not being vaccinated yet, which Roberts suggested was “the slippery slope” to not open schools at all. But the video clip skipped over the key context of Weingarten saying in the full interview that “we need to bring back our masks” as the next way to ensure safety.

Earlier in the day, on The Faulkner Focus, Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy claimed that the CDC was “lying by omission” about COVID-19 in children — making the tautological claim that “we know zero children who have been healthy, who are healthy, have died of COVID, and yet they’re talking about masking our children for the rest of the year.

Campos-Duffy is apparently alleging that all children who have died from the disease had some other pre-existing condition — a claim that has been advanced by frequent Fox News guest Dr. Martin Makary. Nevertheless, the focus only on deaths still overlooks other consequences such as hospitalizations and long-COVID compared to the safety benefits that can come from masking for children who are not yet eligible for vaccination.

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Citation From the July 29, 2021, edition of Fox News’ The Faulkner Focus

And on Tuesday, Sinclair Broadcast Group host Sharyl Attkisson went even further by suggesting that COVID-19 infections should actually be encouraged in children. Attkisson — a longtime promoter of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and COVID-19 misinformation — tweeted that she had purportedly heard from a doctor that COVID-19 was like chickenpox in that “you'd rather your kid get Covid now” for milder symptoms.

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However, such old folk wisdom became obsolete over 25 years ago — when a chickenpox vaccine received FDA approval.