San Diego Unified is removing a letter from President Donald Trump inserted into food baskets because it significantly diminishes the scientifically-backed importance of wearing a mask to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.
The letter from President Donald Trump (politi.co/2GtAtia) was placed into boxes of free groceries to be distributed to some 50 million families nationwide by school districts under the USDA Farmers to Family program. The state’s second-largest district is taking the unprecedented step of removing the letter in order to protect local families from being misled on how to best safeguard themselves from possibly becoming infected.
“Science is clear: wearing a mask works to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said. “Masks are required in California and on every San Diego Unified school campus. It is not optional, as the President wrote in his letter.”
Trump’s letter recommends that Americans practice social distancing “and consider wearing a face-covering in public.” Medical experts call masks essential to fighting the spread of COVID-19. Many states, including California, counties, and cities mandate masks and social distancing.
Marten has directed the San Diego Unified Food and Nutrition Services Department to remove all letters that have not already been distributed. She said the removal will occur as part of the existing delivery process, which requires every box to be opened before distribution. (San Diego Unified receives the boxes sealed with the letter, and opens the boxes to refrigerate the milk, yogurt and eggs to keep them cool until the time of service.)
Trustee Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said she was appalled that the Trump Administration was failing to follow state health mandates when communicating to the most disadvantaged students. She noted these same communities are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis and are suffering disproportionately. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 hospitalization rates among non-Hispanic Black people and Hispanic or Latino people were both about 4.7 times the rate of non-Hispanic white people.
“The COVID-19 virus has disproportionately impacted communities of color,” Dr. Whitehurst-Payne said. “Not only are we facing higher rates of infection and mortality from the coronavirus, but we have also been the hardest hit in terms of unemployment and hunger. To take advantage of that suffering by distributing misleading medical information is appalling. This is equivalent to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in terms of the level of contempt demonstrated towards our community.”
Beyond understating the health benefits and ignoring the state mandate of wearing a mask, the Trump letter mistakenly repeats the president’s claims that only the very old and very sick need to be protected from the coronavirus. President Trump has repeated the line that children are “basically immune” to COVID-19, despite evidence to the contrary.
“More than 60,000 school-age children in the State of California have been infected with the coronavirus, and no one knows what the long-term health effects of that will be,” Dr. Whitehurst-Payne said. “To imply that only people over 80 need to be protected from the virus is extremely irresponsible.”