House Republican Whip and Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) opening statement at today’s Select Subcommittee’s hearing highlights students’ declining mental health and academic performance because of Democrat-led lockdowns and mandates. Whip Scalise slams President Biden for caving to teachers union bosses on whether students should be wearing masks in the classroom. Additionally, Whip Scalise calls out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s harmful and inconsistent guidelines for children in schools across the country and President Biden for breaking his promise to “follow the science” and “shut down the virus.”
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
“I’d like to thank all the witnesses for their testimony today.
“A hearing on this topic is long overdue. For more than two years, we’ve heard about the damage the U.S.’s COVID policies have done to our nation’s children, as well as working parents.
“Parents pleaded with their local school boards to inject actual science and commonsense. Congressional Republicans have sent letters, asked for hearings and briefings, and begged the CDC to explain ‘The Science’ that justified the harm their ridiculous policies were causing to our kids.
“Here’s what we know: remote learning hurts children both academically and emotionally. And scheduling disruptions at school and daycare created chaos for working families, hindering them from returning to the workforce. It is clearly one of the U.S.’s largest policy failures of the pandemic.
“Many Democrat-led states and teachers union bosses refused to reopen schools for more than a year in some places despite evidence that closures and instability harm America’s children. In the summer of 2020, Republicans repeatedly called on governors and school systems to reopen schools fully.
“Student learning loss due to remote or hybrid learning is astronomical. Millions of kids are behind in math and reading now. Amplify, the curriculum and assessment provider, examined its test data for about 400,000 elementary school students and found that ‘at the middle of the 2021–22 school year, in every elementary grade (K–5), the number of students at risk of not reading is still higher than it was at the same point in the 2019–20 school year.’
“Mr. Chairman, I’d like to submit four studies into the record that detail the detrimental impact that remote learning has had on America’s children.
“On top of learning loss, children and teenagers are now experiencing a mental health crisis of historic proportions. The American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health, and the U.S. Surgeon General issued a youth mental health advisory. Suicide attempts by 12- to 17-year-old girls rose 51 percent from early 2019 to early 2021.
“When kids have been able to go back to school or daycare, the CDC recommends extreme quarantine policies, especially for kids that can’t wear masks. This means that if one kid in a class gets COVID, the whole class is shut down for up to 10 days. Can you imagine the negative impact this has on not only the students but also on working parents?
“Abrupt closures and long quarantines mean they miss work unexpectedly and for many days at a time. These disruptions are caused by irrational COVID policies, and they’re ongoing. According to a survey by the New York Times, ‘In January, more than half of American children missed at least three days of school. About 25 percent missed more than a week, while 14 percent of students missed nine or more days.’ This keeps parents from returning to the workforce.
“On top of that, until last Friday, the CDC said that everyone over the age of two had to wear a mask. Even though worldwide, most countries don’t mask young kids in school due to the harm it causes, and the protection masks provide children is unknown and might be very small. The CDC said kids should be masked for the last two years.
“This is something Republicans and parents have been begging the CDC to change since we have come to learn so much more about COVID and its largely minimal impact on young kids, combined with the well-documented damage masks and remote learning are having on young children.
“Over the last few weeks, we started to see mask mandates lifted in most major cities, including New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, in restaurants and other public spaces, yet unbelievably, mask mandates for children in schools and daycare centers remained.
“Seriously, their plan was to force kids to mask all day in school or at daycare, in most cases even while outside, but adults would be allowed to be maskless in grocery stores, restaurants, bars, and sporting events.
“I’d like to note here that this hypocrisy and nonsensical ‘political science’ has been going on throughout the entire pandemic. Prominent Democrats have been caught ignoring their own masking rules while forcing them on children for two years. Liberal elites have been spotted without masks at hair salons, the Met Gala, professional football games, fancy restaurants, and more, while those same hypocritical leaders shamed others who didn’t comply with their inconsistent mask mandates.
“But as you all know now, we had a COVID miracle a few days ago. Just in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address, Biden’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally updated its mask guidelines. The new guidelines mean that instead of recommending nearly the entire country mask indoors, now only 28 percent are recommended to do so. So overnight, more than 70 percent of the country, including kids in school, don’t have to mask anymore.
“Wow. So, what changed?
“Did Democrats finally recognize the harm to little kids? No.
“A new vaccine or a new powerful drug? No, we’ve had those tools for a long time now.
“New ‘science’? Not that either.
“What changed for Democrats is this the politics. And this isn’t just me speculating about what changed.
“Here are excerpts from a memo by Impact Research, a well-known Democrat polling firm that also happens to be where President Joe Biden’s pollster works, according to Punchbowl News.
“Note that the memo is dated February 24, 2022. Just one day before the CDC announced changes to their masking guidance. It reads, in part:
“‘Two-thirds of parents and 80 percent of teachers say the pandemic caused learning loss, and voters are overwhelmingly more worried about learning loss than kids getting COVID. Six in ten Americans describe themselves as ‘worn out’ by the pandemic. The more we talk about the threat of COVID and onerously restrict people’s lives because of it, the more we turn them against us and show them we’re out of touch with their daily realities.’
“I couldn’t agree more. This is what parents and Republicans have been saying for a long time.
“It goes on:
“‘[W]e cause more harm than we prevent with voters by going into our third year talking about restrictions. And, if Democrats continue to hold a posture that prioritizes COVID precautions over learning how to live in a world where COVID exists but does not dominate, they risk paying dearly for it in November.’
“Here we have it. This is a smoking gun!
“Biden’s CDC is only loosening its masking guidance now that Democrats’ poll numbers are tanking, and the midterms are right around the corner.
“During the campaign, Joe Biden repeatedly promised to ‘follow the science’ but apparently, the science changes when the polling changes.
“The American people see right through Democrats’ masking political theater and will never forget how they played politics with our children by shuttering their schools and masking their faces even as doctors were noting the harm those mandates were causing to our children. People have lost faith in the CDC, and this brazen political stunt on masking further erodes whatever trust was left.
“Last night during the State of the Union Address, President Biden said: ‘Let’s stop looking at COVID-19 as a partisan dividing line.’
“This is from the same President whose administration directed the Department of Justice to investigate parents who passionately expressed their First Amendment free speech rights at school board meetings based on a false suggestion that they were domestic terrorists. These parents who care about their kids’ education deserve more than a throwaway line in a speech. President Biden owes them an apology.
“My Democrat colleagues used COVID to dramatically expand the power of the federal government and advance their socialist spending agenda. They wasted $1.9 trillion on policies that have done little to address COVID and everything to fuel the extreme inflation Americans are suffering from today. They tried to mandate employees at private businesses get vaccinated or face termination and the end of their livelihood. They divided and shamed Americans that dared to question their authoritarian interpretation of ‘The Science.’ They kept the crisis going and kept people in fear because it suited their political needs.
“But thank God we live in a democracy. The American people are angry. Parents are worried about the unnecessary harm caused to their children. And now Democrat politicians are worried about keeping power in Washington, so they’re finally changing the science to reflect what we’ve been saying all along.
“But people won’t forget what you did. You shamelessly divided Americans and disregarded their children’s future.
“I have said all along that we should follow the actual science and that COVID shouldn’t be politicized and used to divide us. I’m glad the Biden Administration has finally come around to this too.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”