The Corner

Health Care

Scott Gottlieb and the Schools

In response to Where Was This Expert When We Needed Him?

John Fund says the former FDA commissioner (and current AEI colleague of mine, not that I’ve seen him in more than a year) “was among the most aggressive advocates of school closures last March” but started backtracking in September and has now done a complete 180. That wasn’t how I remembered it, and some Googling yields a more complicated picture.

USA Today quoted him on March 9, 2020: “So broad preemptive school closures, I personally wouldn’t advocate that.” By March 19 — and remember that these were the early days of the outbreak, when conditions were changing quickly — he was telling the Economic Club of New York that schools should be closed if there were high infection rates. He said something similar, though a bit ambiguous, a few days later on Face the Nation. By the end of the month, he was writing that schools should re-open as soon as the first phase of COVID was over.

At the end of May, he told Bloomberg Opinion that “there will and should be an attempt to open schools in the fall.” In July, he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Schools Can Open Safely This Fall.”

One could reasonably disagree with some of Gottlieb’s recommendations, especially in retrospect. It is clearer now than it was a year ago that young children are unlikely to endure or transmit severe COVID cases. But when I look at his overall record on school closures, I don’t see any easy gotchas available.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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