Former CDC director on why kids are testing COVID-19 positive

Dr. Richard Besser tells “GMA” whether there could be any potential long-term health effects for children infected with the virus.
3:49 | 07/16/20

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Transcript for Former CDC director on why kids are testing COVID-19 positive
Joining us now is the former acting director of the CDC and our former colleague here at ABC news, Dr. Richard Besser who is now the president and CEO of the Robert wood Johnson foundation. Rich, always, always good to see you and you just heard in Victor's report about the numbers down there in Florida, more than 30% of young people testing positive. Rich, is there an explanation for this? Yeah, you know, robin, I think more work needs to be done to sort that out. You know, how much of it is due to behavior of children, not staying at home, getting out and being exposed, how much is from older family members who are getting back to social life or going back to work and bringing it home and ink fecking children but the bottom line takeaway is that we need to remember that children can get this infection too and while most of them will do well that's not true for every child. That's true. Most of them will do well but that's not the case for every child but do we know long-term what the effects could be on these young people? Yeah, you know, that's one of the big concerns whenever there is a new infectious disease. This infection has only been around since December. We know from adults who have had this infection when they followed up with adults two months out, many of them, a high percentage will still have fatigue, still have trouble breathing and have to worry in terms of could there be longer-term effects in life. A number of infections if you get them in childhood as you get into adulthood they can have consequences so you want to reduce the chances that everyone can get this and children need to be part that have equation. This is your wheelhouse. You're a pediatrician. You're also a parent and you know the question. You know the question that a lot of parents are asking, can schools re-open safely this fall, rich? Yeah, I mean, as a pediatrician and parent I know that children need to be in school. They need to be learning. But it has to be done safely. Not just for the children where most of them will do well but teachers and staff have to be safe and we have to make sure that every school is safe, not just those in wealthy neighborhoods that have the money to retrofit classrooms and hire staff to do cleaning and hire staff to do screening. It needs to be every school but if you have widespread transmission in the community like is going on in so many places, there's absolutely no way to safely open schools. You have to get it under control in the community first and then get your schools ready to be I believe to open so that children, staff and teachers are safe. I'm glad you said that, staff and teachers as well as the students can be safe. You have seen the reports about the white house saying that they want to bypass the CDC, have the coronavirus information sent directly to the white house. The administration is saying this instead of the CDC. You're the former acting director. Is this unprecedented and what kind of implications could this result in? Yeah, you know, I see this as a big red flag. CDC has been sidelined throughout the response. They haven't been able to hold press conferences and talk directly to the public on a daily basis. CDC is the place where data needs to be. It's got the world's best scientists to be able to analyze that data and look to see what's working and what's not. The data systems have to be improved. They've been underfunded but why set up a system that bypasses the nation's public health it doesn't make sense and it concerns me about the influence of politics on what should be good public health science. It has been confusing for a lot of people, the public Dr. Richard Besser, always good to see you. Hope you and your family are doing well. Take care. Thanks so much, robin. Great to see you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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