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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO — With President Barack Obama in San Diego for a political fundraising event Thursday, a national veterans group called for him to “clean up” the Department of Veterans Affairs, mired in scandal over alleged lapses in medical care.

“The president is here in San Diego,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, at a news conference outside the War Memorial Building Auditorium in Balboa Park. “He needs to tell veterans what he’s doing to clean up VA.”

Rieckhoff said his group is polling its 200,000 members to determine whether it should join the American Legion in calling for the resignation or firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday voted to subpoena Shinseki for emails and documents tied to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, which has been accused of maintaining a secret “waiting list” of veterans, some of whom died while waiting for treatment.

Other controversies have swirled around Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide.

“He’s yet to address the veterans,” Rieckhoff said. “The president needs to assure them that he’s taking action.”

Rieckhoff noted that, so far, “San Diego has been one of the higher-performing VAs.”

VA San Diego has “mechanisms in place” to ensure that all new patients are seen within 90 days, with most seen within 14 days, and urgent care is “available 24/7,” according to its director, Jeffrey Gering. More than 98 percent of existing patients are seen within 14 days if they request specialty care appointments, Gering said.

“I am meeting with the scheduling clerks to reinforce, in person, the importance that they schedule ethically and with integrity,” Gering said.

The White House has signaled support for Shinseki, a retired Army general who was named to the Veterans Affairs post as a reformer.

AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan

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Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.