Florida Governor Wrongly Claims Coronavirus Doesn't 'Threaten Kids' — Though Children Are Among the Dead

"There are some people who are younger ... who don't have any underlying conditions who are getting seriously ill," Dr. Anthony Fauci has said

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, gestures as he speaks during a news conference in front of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mobile command center at the Miami Beach Convention Center, in Miami Beach, Fla. The Corps of Engineers will transform the newly renovated facility into a hospital by April 27, news outlets reported Tuesday Virus Outbreak Field Hospital, Miami Beach, United States - 08 Apr 2020
Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP/Shutterstock

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wrongly claimed on Thursday that the novel coronavirus doesn’t seem to “threaten kids” and that there hasn’t been a “single fatality” of anyone under 25 years old — though the latest federal data shows it has killed at least five people in that age group.

According to CNN, DeSantis made the false claim while discussing a timeline for re-opening Florida schools, which like numerous other parts of the country have shut down in order to slow the virus’ spread.

“This particular pandemic is one where, I don’t think nationwide there’s been a single fatality under 25. For whatever reason it just doesn’t seem to threaten, you know, kids,” DeSantis, 41, said at an educators’ meeting on Thursday, CNN reported.

While people over 60 are more vulnerable to the disease, along with people with underlying health conditions, anyone can be affected, experts say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that four people between the ages of 15 and 24 have died from the coronavirus, and one child who was less than 5 years old has also died.

The CDC numbers are based on an analysis of just 4,065 of the more than 16,000 reported deaths in the United States and may not reflect the full scope of younger victims. (However, there had not been any young people identified as coronavirus victims in Florida as of Friday.)

The Washington Post reports that it independently identified at least nine people under the age of 20 that died from the virus and that at least 759 people under the age of 50 had died.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in front of Hard Rock Stadium, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn't want the people on the Holland America's Zandaam where four people died and others are sick to be treated in Florida, saying the state doesn't have the capacity to treat outsiders as the coronavirus outbreak spreads Virus Outbreak Florida, Miami Gardens, United States - 30 Mar 2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis. Wilfredo Lee/AP/Shutterstock

“What we are starting to see is that there are some people who are younger, people your age — young, healthy, vigorous — who don’t have any underlying conditions who are getting seriously ill,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, told NBA star Steph Curry during an interview on Instagram last month. “It’s still a very, very small minority, but it doesn’t mean that young people like yourself should say, ‘I’m completely exempt from any risk of getting seriously ill.’ ”

DeSantis had been criticized by some for refraining to issue a statewide stay-at-home order until April, weeks after other states.

“The governor’s order is welcome,” Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, according to the Sun Sentinel, “But it is overdue, riddled with too many loopholes and will leave many open to contracting the COVID-19 virus.”

The Florida governor was also chastised for wearing just one protective glove during a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, using his unprotected hand to touch his face in the process — a subtle habit health officials have repeatedly advised against doing to limit the chance of getting sick.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.

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