SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — With just two weeks before California’s recall election, the leading GOP contender in the bid to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom is under fire for his comments on kids and the coronavirus.

In a sitdown interview with CNN’s Joe Johns, Republican recall candidate Larry Elder made these false claims about the coronavirus pandemic and young people.

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“I don’t believe that the science says young people can be vaccinated. I don’t believe the science suggests that young people should have to wear masks at school. I’m not sure the science is settled on that at all. And young people are not likely to contract the coronavirus and if they do, they’re likely to be mild and if they do, they’re not likely to be hospitalized and certainly not likely to die,” Elder told Johns.

Doctor Yvonne Maldonado, a Stanford physician says Elder is wrong.

“We are seeing a really unprecedented surge in the number of kids who have gotten infected in the last few weeks, compared to at any other time during the pandemic,” she told KPIX 5. “We have almost 50 thousand children who have been hospitalized with infections.”

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There have been 500 documented juvenile deaths from COVID-19 and over four million cases. Dr. Maldonado, who is running the Pfizer vaccine trials at Stanford in children ages 5 to 11, says children absolutely need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“If you compare the number of children who’ve been hospitalized or died from this disease, compared to other vaccine preventable illnesses – this exceeds all of those,” Dr. Maldonado said.

Outside San Francisco City Hall, teachers who just returned to a classroom full-time this year were pushing for more protections against COVID-19, as well as wildfire smoke.

“We require portable air cleaners inside every space in our classrooms inside SFUSD, high quality masks and the third being universal testing for students, family staff,” said Cassondra Curiel of United Educators of San Francisco.

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Governor Gavin Newsom responded to Elder’s comments to Johns with this tweet: “THIS is what’s at stake on September 14th. Elder is spewing anti-vaccine lies. He is willing to let young people die. Californians must vote NO.”