Continuing to blast President Joe Biden and his administration’s pro-mask policies, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday asked why Biden never ordered school children to wear masks during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic that began in 2009.
“Joe Biden was Vice President during the H1N1 flu, I think it was the 2009, 2010 period…,” DeSantis said in Fort Walton Beach. “The number of pediatric deaths for H1N1 was like 1,200. And that was just one flu season. So that was three to four times what we’ve seen in the United States compared to COVID, and yet, was Biden talking about forcing masks on young kids then, even though H1N1 was a much more significant threat?”
Others, including former President Donald Trump, have tried to compare the Obama administration’s response to H1N1 flu with the current COVID-19 pandemic response, often resorting to hyperbole that proved to be false.
USA Today, in August of last year, debunked widely spread talking points comparing COVID-19 to H1N1, noting that while the 2009 virus had affected more people than COVID at that time, COVID-19 was far more deadly.
“Since the first reported U.S. coronavirus death on Feb. 29, there have been more than 166,000 U.S. deaths – more than 13 times the estimated number of U.S. swine flu deaths in its first year – according to data from Johns Hopkins University,” the USA Today piece noted.
Since the publication of that article, U.S. deaths related to COVID-19 have grown to more than 624,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The United States saw 12,469 deaths from H1N1 flu, the CDC said. The agency estimated 1,270 children up to age 17 died from April 2009 to March 2010. The CDC reported that as of Friday, 465 children up to age 17 had died from COVID-19.
DeSantis on Friday questioned why Biden, Vice President at the time, didn’t order schools to require children to wear masks during the swine flu pandemic. He pointed out the number of children who have died with COVID is less than those who died with H1N1 flu.
“If you look at that, there’s a total of about 380 COVID-related deaths attributed to people under 18 for the entire pandemic. You can also look — if you’re COVID positive, they count it as a death. A lot of those deaths, quite frankly, they had other underlying causes. But put that aside,” DeSantis counseled.
“Heck, most flu seasons have more pediatric, a higher pediatric mortality than what we’ve seen over this last 18 months,” the Governor added.
Recalling the swine flu pandemic, DeSantis asked, “Did they try to force masks then? Why not? Why all of a sudden now are they doing it? I think the reason is, this is more political. They want to kneecap the parents and they want to empower teachers’ unions.”
DeSantis predicted that as the delta variant of COVID-19 advances in Northern states, “they are going to push to try to close schools again.”
“That is not happening in Florida,” he said.
“This is a lot of politics at play. You can’t tell me that they shouldn’t have had to do all this other stuff for respiratory viruses that were more significant,” DeSantis said.
“Given how COVID is such a small risk relative to past flus and other respiratory viruses, then will they be able to do that every single school year? Will they be able to do that for flu season? At what point does the parent have agency in any of this. It seems to be all they want to do is empower the government rather than the parents,” DeSantis lamented.
The Governor’s comments Friday afternoon came after a day of back and forth regarding potentially docking the pay of board members in districts that contravened the ban on mask mandates. The state Department of Education is moving forward regarding Alachua and Broward counties. Biden and his administration, meanwhile, are siding with the districts over the state, setting up yet another confrontation between Tallahassee and Washington.