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Perry: 'Generally speaking,' kids won't transmit COVID-19 to teachers

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Congressman Scott Perry speaks during a town hall at Hummelstown Fire Department in Dauphin County Tuesday, July 30, 2019. It was the first in-person town hall by Perry in over two years. Bill Kalina photo

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry on Thursday argued that schools would be relatively safe to open up in the fall, claiming that adults aren't contracting COVID-19 from children, statements that drew a strong rebuke from the state teachers' union.

The Carroll Township Republican's comments came during a tele-town hall, where he noted that "generally speaking," teachers wouldn't be at risk. He specifically referred to the rarity of children in middle school and younger transmitting the coronavirus.

"The science is showing young children are not transmission vectors, so people aren't getting coronavirus from their kids, generally speaking," Perry said, citing an unnamed German study that reportedly found that the virus doesn't spread easily in schools.

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More:School openings hinge on case counts, health official warns

However, many studies say otherwise.

For example, a recent South Korean study of nearly 65,000 people suggested that school reopenings would very likely contribute to more outbreaks and children can, in fact, spread the coronavirus, The New York Times reported. 

While the study, consistent with many others, found that children under 10 years old were about half as likely to spread the virus, those between 10 and 19 can spread it just as easily as adults.

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There isn't much appetite in the U.S. to send children back to school without some kind of restrictions, either.

Only about 1 in 10 Americans think day cares and schools should open without restrictions, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs.

About 31% said schools shouldn't physically open at all, the same poll stated.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has repeatedly argued schools should fully reopen in the fall and his administration has threatened to withhold funding from those that don't. 

Lauri Lebo, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said she was offended by Perry's remarks on behalf of the immunocompromised teachers throughout the state.

“When it comes to the science, safety, health and medical information that’s coming out, PSEA and our members are going to turn toward the experts instead of Scott Perry — a politician who doesn’t take science seriously.”

More:Perry makes waves by implying God pollutes

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of stopping, school districts have struggled to settle on concrete reopening plans. It has been further made difficult by new mitigation guidelines such as mask mandates.

Those struggles are alive and well in York County school districts as well.

Multiple school districts, including South Western, have opted for "hybrid plans" that combine online classes with in-person instruction.

West Shore School District, on the other hand, this month became the first in the county to announce it will reopen entirely online come August.

During Thursday's tele-town hall, Perry claimed that the idea of sending children back to school has become a political matter rather one focused on just science.

His opponent in the 10th Congressional District election, Democrat Eugene DePasquale, also said that "politics has no place in this discussion" — but echoed sentiments that the experts need to lead the way.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale holds his first campaign event in York at Crispus Attucks, Tuesday, January 21, 2020. DePasquale is running as a democratic challenger to Congressman Scott Perry.
John A. Pavoncello photo

"As the father of a 17-year-old, I want nothing more than to have my daughter return to the classroom to experience her senior year of high school," DePasquale said. "That being said, reopening schools should be a decision left to parents and educators, led by the guidance of public health experts on how to best ensure the safety of students, teachers, staff and the surrounding community."

Pennsylvania is now grappling with a steady influx of COVID-19 cases. A trend that has become particularly concerning is that cases are becoming more prevalent in younger patients.

In July, Pennsylvania’s 14-day rate of new cases per 100,000 residents has risen by more than 50%, from below 60 to 90, The Associated Press reported.

State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday that school reopenings will hinge on daily increases going down.

“It’s critical to drive down the case counts now in terms of the rise of new cases in order to prepare for schools to reopen,” Levine said. “If we don’t do that now, that would put that in jeopardy.”

As of Sunday at noon, York County had 2,151 cases of COVID-19 and 80 deaths linked to the disease. Statewide, there were 107,425 cases and 7,118 deaths.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.