President Donald Trump. | Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images
President Donald Trump claimed Monday at an Ohio campaign rally that the coronavirus poses little threat to young people and “affects virtually nobody,” as the number of Americans to have died from Covid-19 climbed toward 200,000 in the United States.
“It affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects,” Trump told supporters at an airport outside Toledo.
“That’s it. You know, in some states, thousands of people, nobody young. Below the age of 18, like, nobody,” he continued. “They have a strong immune system, who knows. You look — take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.”
“By the way, open your schools, everybody,” Trump added. “Open your schools.”
But there are likely much more asymptomatic infections among young people than have been detected, and the rate at which children are becoming infected is increasing — probably because of their return to school and other normal activities.
A recent study from the The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association found that more than 513,000 children in the U.S. have caught the coronvairus since the pandemic began, including 70,630 from Aug. 20-Sept. 3.
And a CDC report released last month indicated that weekly hospitalization rates had steadily increased among children.
The president’s latest remarks contradict the more dire assessments he told The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward in a series of taped interviews conducted earlier this year for the veteran journalist’s latest book on the Trump White House.
“Now, it’s turning out, it’s not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just older,” Trump told Woodward in a March 19 interview. “It’s plenty of young people.”
In that same interview — recorded at a time when the White House was still publicly dismissive of the coronavirus’ risk to Americans — Trump also acknowledged that he “wanted to always play … down” the virus and acknowledged: “I still like playing it down.”
The president and White House officials have insisted that he was merely trying to project calm in the pandemic’s early days, and Trump said in an ABC News town hall last week that he actually “up-played” the coronavirus “in terms of action.”
More than 6.8 million Americans have become infected with Covid-19 as of Tuesday morning, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker, and more than 199,000 have died.