John Cornyn makes false claims about children and COVID-19

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Sen. John Cornyn is joining the GOP chorus of misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“No one under the age of 20 has died of the coronavirus,” Cornyn said in an interview on Thursday. “We still don’t know whether children can get it and transmit it to others.”

Both claims are demonstrably false. Children can get the virus and even get seriously ill and die from it; fatalities have occurred in patients as young as six weeks old. While Cornyn clarified that he was referring to Texas specifically, the claim is still false as the youngest person to die from COVID-19 in Texas was just 17 years old. 

This is not the first time Cornyn has tried to downplay the pandemic. In April, Cornyn said that a national shelter in place order would be an “overreaction” and in March he tweeted a picture of a corona beer while telling voters not to panic. Cornyn has also tried to deflect blame, pinning the pandemic on Chinese “cultural habits” and falsely claiming that diseases like MERS also came from China (MERS, which originated from Saudi Arabia, stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome). 

Cornyn’s staff said that the Senator was referring to a tweet by former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. While Gottlieb said that children were clearly less likely to get infected with COVID-19 and less likely to transmit it to others, he also stressed that we still don’t fully understand the risks and children weren’t invulnerable to the virus. “less risk doesn’t mean no risk,” he wrote.  

Cornyn’s false claims are disheartening but unsurprising given the GOP’s rejection of facts, data, and expertise when it comes to the pandemic. The United States has 4 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the cases. It’s efforts to get the virus under control have been a disaster compared to other developed nations. This is what happens when political leaders believe things like masks don’t help reduce the spread, that the elderly should die for the economy, or that the whole thing is a Democratic hoax. 

If Republicans like Cornyn remain in denial about the problem, how can they be expected to solve it? Texans deserve leaders who actually listen to the experts and follow the science. 

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

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