ICYMI: Health Experts Slam Ciattarelli for Falsely Claiming Kids Aren’t Vulnerable to COVID
Epidemiologist: “This is political posturing — not anything grounded in fact or scientific evidence”
This weekend, a scathing report from the Star-Ledger highlighted the immediate blowback from public health experts after Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli falsely claimed that “children are not vulnerable to this virus.”
Ciattarelli downplayed the threat of a virus that is causing a nationwide surge in student quarantines and pediatric hospitalizations during an interview with Pat O’Melia of the Shore Show. Health experts say Ciattarelli’s lies are not only false but also harmful.
“The epidemiological data over the last month and a half have shown increases in infections, diseases, and hospitalization of children. All three indicators are up across the country, and we are not even at schools being open in New Jersey yet,” said Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “To make a statement that children are not vulnerable is not only irresponsible but, quite frankly, dangerous.”
Ciattarelli has a long history of putting New Jersey children at risk. Last month, the Republican came under fire for vowing to end LGBTQ+ curriculum in schools and abolishing requirements for schoolchildren to get vaccinations for dangerous diseases like the mumps.
Ciattarelli’s opposition to vaccines is deeply out of touch with New Jersey values. A recent Monmouth poll showed New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support masks in schools. Meanwhile, Gov. Murphy has shown unwavering leadership by following the science and mandating masks in schools to keep kids, teachers, and their loved ones safe.
Read the full report of health experts’ responses below:
Masks and vaccinations.
It’s what everybody is talking about around the nation and New Jersey’s gubernatorial campaign isn’t immune from the subject.
Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli has come under intense fire and criticism from Democratic incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign and health officials alike for a statement he made about children and the coronavirus.
“I don’t think there should be vaccine mandates, first, let me say that. I do believe in vaccine choice even though I’d advocate for people to be vaccinated — but not children. Children are not vulnerable to this virus,” Ciattarelli said during interview with Pat O’Melia of the “Shore Show.”
“I don’t want to see any vaccine mandate whatsoever, particularly for children, and I don’t want to see a mask mandate,” he added.
The New Jersey Democratic State Committee shared the interview online, and state Democrats said in a statement the remarks are evidence Ciattarelli is “absolutely unfit to be governor.” Health experts say the GOP hopeful’s comments are downright wrong — and harmful.
“That is a completely false statement,” said Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health.
“The epidemiological data over the last month and a half have shown increases in infections, diseases and hospitalization of children. All three indicators are up across the country and we are not even at schools being open in New Jersey yet,” Halkitis said. “To make a statement that children are not vulnerable is not only irresponsible but, quite frankly, dangerous.”
New Jersey Republicans have regularly slammed Murphy over the unprecedented restrictions and mandates he, like many other governors in the nation, put in place to try and stop the spread of the virus that killed more than 633,700 in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins. They’ve criticized him for hurting New Jersey small businesses and have sometimes referred to him as “King Murphy,” arguing he’s handed down mandates without any input from the public.
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected — and killed — older people in New Jersey.
Children account for fewer than 118,000 cases in the state, or about 12.5% of the more than 943,500 cases since the first one was reported in the Garden State in March 2020, according to Department of Health data. And of the 26,807 state officials have said have died from the pandemic, children account for only 0.03% of the total figure.But health officials are sounding the alarms.
“Low risk and no risk are not the same things,” said Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and public health professor at Montclair State University, who also cited the rising number of pediatric hospitalizations across the country.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, COVID-19 cases in children have increased “exponentially, with over a four-fold increase the past month, rising from about 38,000 cases the week ending July 22 to 180,000″ in mid-August.
“This is political posturing — not anything grounded in fact or scientific evidence,” said Henry Raymond, an associate professor and epidemiologist at Rutgers School of Public Health. “It’s patently wrong that children are invulnerable to COVID-19 (and) It doesn’t take too much Googling to see what experts are saying on this topic.”But Murphy did order that all school employees in the state be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face weekly testing. At the time of the announcement, he noted how more than 13,000 students and staff were quarantining due to exposure in Hillsborough County, Florida, and that more than 20,000 students across Mississippi had been exposed, according to published reports.
Murphy also mandated that masks be worn in schools at the start of the year — something Ciattarelli promptly criticized.
“Let me be clear, I oppose Gov. Murphy’s mask mandate for students,” Ciattarelli said at the time. “The science is clear: nearly all children who contract COVID-19 are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic and wearing masks for children is terrible for their social and emotional development.”
A recent poll, meanwhile, showed New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support masks in schools. The Monmouth University poll showed 69% of parents — and 67% of all voters — support the mask mandate. Far fewer — 44% of parents and 53% of voters — support mandating vaccines for children 12 and older.
There is no vaccine mandate for children in the state.
When asked about Ciattarelli’s statement that children aren’t vulnerable to the virus, campaign spokeswoman Stami Williams referred to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that showed children are “not as vulnerable to the virus as any adult is.”
Williams didn’t respond for comment when asked to clarify about Ciattarelli saying children aren’t at all vulnerable.
“You can’t go around saying things unless you know it’s absolutely true,” Corey Basch, a professor at William Paterson University’s Department of Public Health, said. “A consumer viewing a video like this … it’s very hard for a person to distinguish between a person who is credible and a person who isn’t.”