Questions must be answered about whether the nation's teachers' unions used their political influence to keep schools closed while using "pseudoscientific" guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control that have been brought into doubt after agency researchers said their findings may have been misconstrued, Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday.
"When you have researchers whose data is what they used to reach these conclusions, and then you have the findings come out and it basically protects the status quo and gives cover to districts that do not want to open, you start to wonder whether there’s some political influence," the Florida Republican said on Fox News' "America's Newsroom."
"Common sense tells you there are powerful teacher unions in parts of this country who are very important to the Democratic Party, key allies of [President] Joe Biden, and they don't want to open," Rubio said. "And, rather than have to line up against them, this is a pseudoscientific cover for them not to have to reopen and I think there’s questions that need to be asked about this."
Rubio's comments come after the researchers, Drs. Tara Henderson, Monica Gandhi, Tracy Beth Hoeg, and Daniel Johns said that the guidance they gave the CDC was misinterpreted and that the agency should loosen its guidelines on reopening schools.
The doctors said in an opinion piece in USA Today that keeping schools closed or even partially reopened is “unwarranted, harming children, and has become a human rights issue.”
They list science-based facts as the reason behind their stance, noting that 286 children have died from COVID-19 compared to more than 500,000 adults.
They also said that the number of children who died equals the number who die from the flu each year and is far less than the number of children and adolescents who committed suicide last year, perhaps because of school closures.
"Like anything else when you make decisions about this, it’s cost versus benefit," said Rubio. "The cost of not reopening schools, we know, is very, very high. We see the mental health crisis among young people and the learning losses that are occurring, not to mention the social aspects of it."
Further, Rubio said, there are "diminishing returns at this point" for keeping schools closed.
"There is clear science and evidence that includes schools that have been open now for months, including in Florida, that you can reopen schools safely even without vaccines in place, even without rigorous testing for example," said Rubio. "It can be done, it is being done, and there’s no reason why more places can't do it. But to date, I think it’s up to 50% of schools across the country are not open full-time for in-class instruction.”
Rubio also criticized the $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan set for House passage Wednesday, saying there was no significant Republican input to the measure.
"Look, obviously there are some things that people had different opinions about that found a way in there," said Rubio. "Ultimately, we’ve done six COVID relief bills now in the Senate, five of them under President Trump. All five of them were bipartisan, meaning both sides agreed to it."
Rubio said he worked on all five bills, and the current bill is the "first time that they have (worked) to ram something through on a party-line vote with people that are willing to be supportive."
He added that there could have been as many as 35 Republicans who would have supported a bill under different circumstances, but Democrats "stuck all kinds of things in it that have nothing to do with COVID."
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