Gov. Mike Parson's comments about school children were insensitive for sure, but they also didn't warrant the amount of liberal condemnation they garnered.
During a St. Louis radio interview last week, Parson spoke about youth sports in the St. Louis area amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"These kids gotta get back to school," the governor said. "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 doctors' offices. They're going to go home, and they're gonna get over it, and most of it all proves out to be that way if you look at the science of it."
He added, "We gotta move forward. The risk of not getting youth involved in activities, the risk of not putting them back in school, I guarantee you will create more problems than the virus will ever think about creating long-term for our state. So we gotta figure this out, and we gotta get a balance. But we gotta get life back to normal as we can get it there."
Most of what he said is true. Children do have lower risk with COVID-19, and many who get it have no symptoms at all.
But his critics are also correct that Parson's suggestion that "they're gonna get over it" went too far. That assessment is an oversimplification at the very least. There's no guarantee all children will "get over it" or won't have to go to their doctors or to hospitals.
Children are at greater risk for severe complications from COVID-19 than previously thought. Last week, NBC News reported 85 children under the age of 2 tested positive for the virus in a single Texas county.
Parson's statement also ignored the fact that part of the concern about students returning to schools isn't for the safety of the students. It's for the safety of the adults who could acquire the virus from the children: the teachers, faculty, administrators and, of course, the parents.
Auditor Nicole Galloway, who is seeking Parson's job as top executive of the state, said his comment showed "stunning ignorance."
Parson responded to his critics by saying he cares "deeply" about children and the potential for them to be infected in schools.
"These comments were not articulated very well by me," Parson said at a Wednesday news conference. "What I said didn't come out the way I intended. What I was trying to say is that there is a very real possibility that there could be COVID in our schools, and we want to be prepared for that."
We don't doubt Parson cares about the safety of school children. But he needs to be more measured in his words while also continuing to work with school districts to keep students safe when they return for fall classes.