Governor who refused to ban spring breakers says he didn't know kids could get virus

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis falsely claimed Thursday that no Americans under 25 have died from COVID-19.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is under fire this week for making a false claim that the coronavirus does not affect young people.

It's the latest blowback for DeSantis, who has been roundly criticized for his refusal to close the state's beaches, even as spring breakers flocked there amid a growing outbreak.

"This particular pandemic is one where I don't think nationwide there's been a single fatality under 25. For whatever reason it just doesn’t seem to threaten, you know, kids," he told a group of educators on Thursday.

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He added, "This one, for whatever reason, much more dangerous if you're 65 and [older] than the flu, no doubt about that. If you're younger it just hasn't had an impact. So that should factor into how we're viewing this."

DeSantis claimed that the "the data on that has been 100% consistent."

At least five people under the age of 25 have already died of COVID-19 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last month, DeSantis faced criticism for refusing to issue an order shutting the down the state's beaches. During spring break, students from across the country crowded Florida's coastline, ignoring social distancing guidelines and partying in large groups.

Tectonix, a data analytics company, subsequently tracked some of the spring breakers' anonymized mobile location information as they returned home to their communities. Some later tested positive for the virus and several have since expressed regret for their actions.

DeSantis was one of the last governors to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, waiting until April 1.

By that point, more than 6,700 Floridians had tested positive.

As of Thursday, the CDC has reported more than 427,000 total confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in the United States — more than 15,000 of them in Florida.

While the coronavirus has killed relatively few people under age 25, former CDC head Tom Freiden noted that they can still be carriers of the coronavirus and spread it to others, including adults. "The fact that children may get infected but not show symptoms poses a risk to pediatricians," he told reporters last month.

DeSantis made his latest comments in the context of discussing whether schools in the state could soon reopen. According to Education Week, more than 180,000 adult teachers work in Florida's 4,517 public schools with more than 2.7 million students.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.