JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday he “didn’t do a good job of explaining” his thoughts on school reopenings in a recent radio interview during which he said children will catch COVID-19 when they return to school next month, but they’ll “get over it.”
“I didn’t do a good job of explaining the point I was trying to make,” Parson told KMOX (1120 AM) host Mark Reardon on Tuesday. “For people to say things like ‘I don’t care about children, I don’t give a damn about children,’ I mean that is about as immature a thing that can be said.”
The Republican governor was trying to clarify comments he made on Friday in an interview on “The Marc Cox Morning Show” on KFTK (97.1 FM). Those comments, reported on Sunday by the Post-Dispatch, sparked fury online from Democrats, scientists, commentators and celebrities, among others.
“These kids have got to get back to school,” Parson told Cox on Friday. “They’re at the lowest risk possible. And if they do get COVID-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals. They’re not going to have to sit in doctor’s offices. They’re going to go home, and they’re going to get over it.”
Those who expressed alarm at Parson’s comment included former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, Chelsea Clinton, former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
On Tuesday, Phil Murray, president of the Missouri National Education Association, said in a statement that Parson’s comments demonstrate “a callous disregard for the suffering of children and the safety of the parents, grandparents, educators, and students that will be put at risk if schools are reopened with improper plans and protections.”
During the KMOX interview on Tuesday, Parson accused others of politicizing the comments and added “when kids go back to school, we need to do everything we can to make it safe when they go back to school. And that we are ready when the day comes, somebody comes in there and they test positive.
“We know that virus is going to be there. And the schools across the state of Missouri are very diverse. So everybody’s going to have to have a different policy what school looks like.”
He said he wanted to make sure the state was using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money to “protect the teachers, the janitors, the cooks, the maintenance people and especially the students.”