Rep. Perry: Dispatch editorial was partisan, reckless

Rep. Scott Perry
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, left, R-Pa., speaks to Nick Loxas, owner of the Boomerang Comedy Zone, before a rally against Gov. Wolf's new COVID-19 restrictions in restaurants and bars, Friday, July 17, 2020, outside of the Bonefish Grill in Lower Allen Township, Pa. (Joe Hermitt/The Patriot-News via AP)

The York Dispatch's editorial on July 29 was yet another example of reckless, misinformed and shiftless scribble on a sinking ship. 

This fall, parents, teachers, administrators and school board members face an unenviable choice to return to the classroom for in-person learning, remain at home for online instruction or a combination of both. As parents of grade school children, my wife and I — like so many other neighbors and friends — have agonized over the choices ahead. Make no mistake, we all want nothing more than to safeguard our children while setting them up for success; but as our local school districts and parents make difficult decisions for our children, science and reason should help guide their decisions.

In its recent opinion, The Dispatch doesn’t want to take my word at face value, and that’s fine. I’m a strong advocate for everyone conducting their own research through multi-sourced information to form their independent opinions. The Dispatch, however, again failed to conduct comprehensive research and provide our community with an opinion that considers the facts — providing yet another example of the paper forgoing integrity to make a splash with its decimated readership.

The Dispatch editorial board wrote that I cited “an unnamed Germany study that reportedly found that the virus doesn’t spread easily in schools” during my recent Tele-Town Hall. An inquiry to my office, a visit to my Twitter page or even a quick Google search would have led The Dispatch to discover that the study was conducted by TU Dresden and is the largest study to date on schoolchildren in Germany.

With additional research, The Dispatch would’ve also discovered that I’ve cited studies conducted by the Public Health Agency of Sweden, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Institut Pasteur in France and the American Academy of Pediatrics — which all conclude that young children are less likely than adults to spread COVID-19.

Outside of the evidence I’ve cited, The Dispatch also could’ve found that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states: “The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.”

The CDC goes on to say, “Scientific studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low. ... Based on current data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, especially if proper precautions are followed.”

Finally, the CDC states: “There have also been few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members. This is consistent with data from both virus and antibody testing, suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community.”  The CDC cites six different sources to support this statement.

Interestingly, the evidence The Dispatch provided to “dispute” my claims — a study conducted in South Korea — actually aligns with the studies I’ve presented to our community to consider: that children under the age of 20 are far less likely to spread COVID-19 than adults.

Had The Dispatch done its homework rather than parroting highly partisan, irresponsible reporting by others, it may have realized that the study expressly states that it can’t verify the point The Dispatch is trying to make. The study’s authors caution that they, “could not determine direction of transmission,” meaning that, even for the small amount of cases identified, they can’t determine whether the child was infected at school or by another member of their household. 

What’s more interesting is The Dispatch’s willful inconsistency is levying the same criticism of those who hold similar stances on schools but have different political affiliations. Gov. Tom Wolf, who has proclaimed his power to close anything and everything, regardless of scientific evidence, stated that he’s pushing for schools to reopen but will leave those decisions to the individual school districts.

Here’s what we got from the Dispatch Editorial board on that: crickets.

True, the Dispatch goes on to state, “now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant and cautious, especially with the health and safety of our children and their teachers.”

I wholeheartedly agree. But where’s The Dispatch’s analysis on the proven harm our children face from being locked out of the classroom? Where’s the discussion about the concern that school closures disproportionately affect low-income students, minority students and students with disabilities?

I’ll help The Dispatch start its research on this topic:  the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics both published analyses of the harm our children faced this spring due to school closures.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states: “The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.”  The CDC adds, “Extended school closures are harmful to children’s development of social and emotional skills ... extended closures can be harmful to children’s mental health and can increase the likelihood that children engage in unhealthy behaviors.”

Instead of putting in the work and research necessary to write an informed and full-scope opinion, The Dispatch made the lazy choice to personally attack me — nothing unusual there — and regurgitate partisan talking points that serve only to further divide our community.

Our kids and our community deserve better.

— Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District.