Dr. Mehmet Oz is clarifying comments made during an appearance on Fox News on Thursday after he seemed to suggest that children should return to school amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak because school closures only reduce the virus’ mortality rate by “two or three percent.”
After his words garnered a swift backlash, the TV personality issued a statement, admitting that he “misspoke” while underscoring the importance of being able to re-open schools.
“I’ve realized my comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention,” Oz said in a video statement shared on Instagram on Thursday evening. “I misspoke.”
“As a heart surgeon, I have spent my career fighting to save lives in the operating room by minimizing risks,” he said. “At the same time, I’m being asked constantly: how will we be able to get back people back to their normal lives?”
“To do that, one of the important steps will be figuring out, how do we get our children safely back in school? We know for many kids, school is a place of security, nutrition and learning that is missing right now,” he continued.
“These are issues we are all wrestling with, and I will continue looking for solutions to beat this virus,” he concluded.
During an appearance on Fox News earlier in the day, Oz said that he saw re-opening schools as a “very appetizing opportunity.”
“I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing that the opening of schools may only cost us two or three percent in terms of total mortality,” he said.
“Any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they’re safely being educated, being fed and making the most out of their lives with the theoretical risk on the backside might be a trade off some folks would consider,” he said.
On April 8, The Lancet published an article that cited a study that said “in the UK, school closures alone will reduce COVID-19 deaths by only 2–4 percent.”
The article went on to argue that because “the vast majority of children and adolescents experience mild symptoms” in response to the virus, “the greatest threats from COVID-19 to children and adolescents lie outside the clinic.”
Schools in several states — as well as most universities — will remain closed throughout the end of the 2020 school year and have shifted to a distance learning model.
And while Americans are certainly growing restless from staying at home except for essential activities, health officials warn that loosening restrictions will only cause more death in the short term.
Nationwide, there are at least 662,441 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 30,365 deaths related to the virus as of Thursday. New York is the epicenter in the U.S., with states including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania California, Illinois, Florida and Louisiana also dealing with a high number of cases.
There are more than two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the globe.
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