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FACT CHECK: Did Betsy DeVos Say ‘only’ 0.02 percent of kids are likely to die once they return to school?

Brad Sylvester on July 14, 2020

An image shared on Facebook claims Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that “only” 0.02 percent of children returning to school would likely die from COVID-19.


Verdict: False

There is no evidence that DeVos made the statement. A spokesperson for DeVos refuted the claim.

Fact Check:

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has been vocal about its commitment to reopening schools in the fall, despite risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic. DeVos, in particular, has spoken publicly about that goal multiple times in the last week.

“Every state and every community has school leadership that can sit down and can figure out solutions to the problem of reopening,” DeVos told Fox News’ Sandra Smith in a July 9 interview. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of how.”

A viral Facebook post now claims DeVos publicly admitted this decision would likely result in the deaths of children, saying, “So Betsy Devos today said ‘only’ .02% of kids are likely to die when they go back to school. That’s 14,740 children.”

But the Daily Caller News Foundation found no evidence to support the claim that she made the comment. Had she made such a remark, major news outlets likely would have reported on it, yet none have.

DeVos has made a number of appearances recently in regards to school reopening plans. She appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union” July 12 but made no such admission about potential deaths in either instance. Nor did she make the remark July 9 during appearances at the White House and on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom

“The secretary has never and would never say such a thing,” Angela Morabito, the press secretary for the Education Department, told the DCNF in an email. “This is a total lie. She would not be working to get kids back to school if it were unsafe.”

DeVos has been adamant that the plan to return children to school is sound, asserting that “there’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” during her appearance on “Fox News Sunday” with host Chris Wallace.

While the available data suggests children are less likely to develop COVID-19 and less likely to be hospitalized or die if they do, that is not to say they are completely immune from the dangers associated with the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that tens of thousands of American children under the age of 18 have contracted the disease, and a small percentage of those children have died. There is also a risk that children might spread the disease to adults who are more at risk for it.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, warned in early July that the role children play in the spread of the outbreak remains unknown in part because the data on school-aged children is limited.

“If you look across all of the tests that we’ve done, and when we have the age, the portion that has been the lowest tested portion is the under-10-year-olds,” said Birx during a press conference last week.

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