Texas' Cornyn: 'We still don't know' if kids can get, transmit virus

One of the unsettling aspects of Republicans' responses to the coronavirus crisis is GOP officials eventually learning details that many of us already knew
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn
John Cornyn (R-Texas)Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call
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By Steve Benen

One of the unsettling aspects of Republicans' responses to the coronavirus crisis is GOP officials eventually learning details that many of us already knew. It was in April, for example, when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) explained that he'd only recently learned that people without symptoms can spread the virus, and that realization was "a game changer" for him and his team.

About a week later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told reporters, "This particular pandemic is one where, I don't think nationwide there's been a single fatality under 25." It fell to others to remind the governor that COVID-19 had unfortunately already taken the lives of some children.

All of this came to mind again a few days ago, when Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) spoke to the NBC affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth and suggested there's some ambiguity about details that he really ought to know. The Houston Chronicle reported:

"The good news is, if you look at the numbers, no one under the age of 20 has died of coronavirus.... We still don't know whether children can get it and transmit it to others,” he said.

Given the importance of the pandemic, and the effects it's having in many parts of Texas, it's discouraging when someone in Cornyn's position gets details like these wrong.

For example, there have been COVID-19 fatalities -- in Texas and elsewhere -- for people under the age of 20. This was already the case in April, when DeSantis peddled the same mistake, and unfortunately, there have been several such cases since.

As for Cornyn saying there's uncertainty about "whether children can get" the coronavirus, there is no such uncertainty in reality: the Houston Chronicle's report added, "Texas reported 1,722 confirmed cases in people 19 and younger, including 550 in children 9 and younger" as of the day the senator made these on-air comments.

After the interview caused a stir, Drew Brandewie, a spokesperson for the senator, said in a statement, “This comment is being widely misinterpreted on social media and unfairly twisted by partisan Democrats for political gain. Sen. Cornyn was not questioning whether children can catch the virus -- of course they can. He was questioning the likelihood that children can catch it and THEN transmit it.”

Texas Democrats will today choose Cornyn's rival for the fall, and each of the top contenders have already seized on the GOP incumbent's comments as an important gaffe.