New Jersey Democrats responded today to Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli’s claim that children shouldn’t be subject to mask and vaccine mandates because they aren’t vulnerable to Covid, saying that Ciattarelli was “blatantly lying.”
“I don’t think there should be vaccine mandates,” Ciattarelli said in an interview on the Shore Show. “I do believe in vaccine choice, even though I’d advocate for people to be vaccinated, but not children. Children are not vulnerable to this virus. So I don’t want to see any vaccine mandate whatsoever, particularly for children, and I don’t want to see a mask mandate.”
Citing the number of children infected with Covid or impacted by Covid quarantine procedures in states like Mississippi, New Jersey State Democratic Committee Executive Director Saily Avelenda harshly criticized Ciattarelli’s remarks in a statement.
“Jack Ciattarelli isn’t a doctor – he’s a career politician and a COVID-denier, anti-vaxxer, anti-masker conspiracy theorist who cares much more about catering to his extreme base than he does about public health,” Avelenda said.
Stami Williams, the Ciattarelli campaign’s communications director, stood by Ciattarelli’s claim, saying that “his comments were accurate then and consistent with data from the CDC through today: that children under 18 are at significantly less risk of contracting COVID or developing serious illness from it as compared to adults, especially those who are over 65 years old.”
Characterizing children as not being “vulnerable” to the virus, however, remains largely inaccurate. While children are much less susceptible to severe Covid infections than older people, they can still be hospitalized from the virus or pass it on to other, more vulnerable people. According to NJ Spotlight News, seven New Jerseyans under the age of 18 have died from Covid.
In the same statement, the Ciattarelli campaign attacked Gov. Phil Murphy’s school mask mandate, referencing researchers who have found masks negatively impact children’s mental health and calling Murphy an “extremist” for instituting mask mandates in schools.
“Whether or not children wear masks in school should be up to the parents and local communities to decide, not a one-size-fits-all, Trenton-knows-best mandate from Governor Murphy,” Williams said. “To many people, this feels like the next step towards another lockdown, which is unacceptable and Jack won’t let Governor Murphy bully us into one without a fight.”