Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The assistant secretary of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, accused the media of being dishonest about the coronavirus pandemic and reiterated talking points about Covid-19 that President Trump has pushed for months, including that schools should reopen for in-person learning and that very few children are affected by Covid-19.

“I just wish that the media would get honest about its coverage of Covid,” MCance-Katz told embattled Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo in the HHS “Learning Curve” podcast Friday. “For children, this is not a life-threatening illness.”

McCance-Katz, who was appointed to SAMHSA by Trump in 2017, acknowledged that children do get the severe form of the virus “in rare cases,” but said “with a great, great majority of children this is not a serious illness,” something Trump has also repeated for months.

“And when we put them in school with safety measures in place, why can’t they go to school?” she burst out at one point in the interview.

Many studies have shown children do get Covid-19 and do die from it. They also can spread the virus to others. The American Academy of Pediatrics says more than 500,000 children have been diagnosed with the infection.

“So, lost in all of this response to Covid and nonstop 24/7 horrors of Covid and if you can’t find something to talk about, it appears to me they make things up. It just does,” McCance-Katz said at another point in the interview, referring to media coverage of the pandemic.

McCance-Katz also expressed dismay with the way states have tried to handle the surging pandemic.

“There was no agreement to this nonstop restriction and quarantining and isolation and taking away anything that makes people happy,” she said. “You can’t go to a movie, you can’t go to a football game.”

McCance-Katz, a psychiatrist with a doctorate in infectious disease epidemiology from Yale, argued at one point that the shutdown last spring was too severe.

“I’m going to say it,” she said. “We shut down the entire country before the virus, in my opinion, had a chance to get around the entire country. … We used a sledgehammer when I think we needed a scalpel.”

She argued that getting the economy and schools reopened is integral for Americans’ mental health.

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