Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House July 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House July 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump: Young People 'Almost Immune' to Coronavirus. WHO Chief: No.

The contrasting statements about the risk of Covid-19 to children came as the U.S. president continued to push for a full reopening of schools.

President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that "young people are almost immune" to Covid-19—a statement that came the same day the World Health Organization chief stressed that children can be infected with the coronavirus.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking during a media briefing in Geneva on Thursday, said, "Although older people are at a higher risk of severe disease, younger people are at risk too."

"We have said it before and we’ll say it again," said Tedros, "young people are not invincible."

"Young people can be infected; young people can die; and young people can transmit the virus to others," he added.

Tedros's comments stood in stark contrast to Trump's assertion the same day downplaying the threat of Covid-19 to children as the president reiterated his call for schools to reopen for the fall term with students physically present.

The president was asked by the press on Thursday, "How can you assure people that schools will be safely reopened?"

"Can you assure anybody of anything?" responded Trump.

"Young people are almost immune to this disease," Trump added. "They're stronger. They're stronger. They have a stronger immune system. It's an incredible thing. Nobody has ever seen this before. Various types of flu will hurt young people more than older people."

Just "a tiny percent" of children get the virus, said Trump, "so we have to have our schools open. We have to protect our teachers. We have to protect our elderly. But we do have to have our schools open."

The "tiny percent" Trump referred to in his comments may be a reference to CDC data from Feb. 12 to April 2 showing that 1.7% of U.S. coronavirus cases, about 2,500, were in children.

While children are likely to exhibit milder symptoms than adults, infected kids may develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. Further, the disease's long-term effects on the young and old are still unclear.

Reporting by the New York Times on Friday raises further concern about the risks to children and employees should schools physically reopen. 

Citing epidemiological research out of the University of Texas at Austin, the Times reported:

Based on current infection rates, more than 80 percent of Americans live in a county where at least one infected person would be expected to show up to a school of 500 students and staff in the first week, if school started today.

In the highest-risk areas—including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville and Las Vegas—at least five students or staff would be expected to show up infected with the virus at a school of 500 people.

Faced with potentially unsafe conditions for students, teachers, and staff, the threat of "safety strikes" looms.

"Let's be clear. Just as we have done with our healthcare workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the union at its conference this week.

"But if authorities don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as our executive council voted last week, nothing is off the table," she said, "not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary and authorized by a local union, as a last resort, safety strikes."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

'The Filibuster Must Go': Senate GOP Blocks Debate on Voting Rights Bill

"Democrats in the Senate can have a functional democracy or the filibuster, but not both."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·

Key Senate Democrat Applauded for Manifesto on Reducing Drug Costs

"Sen. Wyden's drug pricing principles are a road map for taking on the greed of pharmaceutical corporations and lowering drug prices for all Americans."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·

Coalition of 200+ Groups Call for Permanent End to 'Neocolonialist' Global Gag Rule

"The global community deserves true partnership from the U.S., but the threat that this destructive policy could reemerge undermines relationships and harms people around the globe."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·

Social Cost of Emissions: 'One of the Most Important Numbers That No One Has Ever Heard Of'

An analysis for Friends of the Earth finds the social cost of CO2 calculates to at least 15 times the Biden administration's current figure, which is set to be finalized by early next year.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·