Former FDA Chief Calls Out Jared Kushner For Comparing COVID-19 To Common Flu

The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has remained “fairly persistent” over the last few weeks, the former FDA commissioner noted.

The former head of the Food and Drug Administration criticized Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner for casually comparing COVID-19 to the common flu during an interview Sunday.

“We need to be careful about making comparisons to flu — and the death and disease we see in flu relative to COVID,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS News’ “Face The Nation.”

The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has remained “fairly persistent” over the last few weeks, noted Gottlieb, a Republican who served in both the Obama and Trump administrations.

“There’s been a fairly persistent level of infection, hospitalizations and deaths over the last couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ve had over a thousand deaths a day for at least two weeks now, over 50,000 infections a day on average.”

Gottlieb called out the White House adviser after Kushner said on the same program earlier that he would “absolutely” send his children back to school this fall. His children’s school, however, will “principally use distance learning” with some in-person “opportunities” for “outdoor education and community building,” according to the school’s plan.

“Our school is not opening up five days a week; I wish they were,” Kushner stated.

Kushner insisted his children have a “six times greater risk of dying from the flu as from COVID-19, adding: “I don’t believe that’s a risk.” Gottlieb said he had no idea where that figure came from, and Kushner didn’t mention a source.

Kushner dismissed the significance of COVID-19 for children just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Saturday that cases in children 17 and younger have been “steadily increasing” from March to July. Children can develop severe illness and complications, even if that risk is lower compared to adults, the CDC cautioned.

The CDC also warned that children are just as contagious as adults in spreading the disease — to their friends, family members and teachers.

“Children likely have the same or higher viral loads ... compared with adults and ... can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings,” states the new CDC guidance.

Hospitalizations of children with COVID-19 is also increasing, according to the CDC. Among those hospitalized, one in three children is admitted to intensive care — the same rate adults.

The true incidence of infection among children is unknown because of a lack of widespread testing, the agency warned. Two boys, 15 and 7, died this month of COVID-19 in Georgia, where schools have already reopened.

“There’s a lot we don’t understand about COVID in kids,” Gottlieb cautioned. The disease does not appear to be as “prevalent” in children as the flu is, he noted. But some 90 children have died from COVID-19, and there have been 570 cases of a severe inflammatory post-viral syndrome linked to COVID-19 in children, he warned.

Gottlieb estimated that there could be as many as 3 million children who have been infected with COVID-19.

Trump compared COVID-19 to the flu in late March. “We have a lot of people dying from the flu, as you know,” yet nothing is shut down, he told reporters at the White House.

The CDC has estimated a total of 24,000 to 62,000 deaths from the 2019-2020 flu season, including 169 pediatric deaths. There are now more than 170,000 deaths — and growing — from COVID-19 in America.

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