'This is a time to believe in the science of our vaccines': Sen. Roger Marshall downplays delta variant

Tim Hrenchir
Topeka Capital-Journal
Sen. Roger Marshall speaks during a town hall meeting Saturday morning at Philip Billard Post No. 1650 of Veterans of Foreign Wars, 3100 S.W. Huntoon.

People are "way overreacting" to the spread of COVID-19's delta variant, U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall said Saturday morning.

The public should stop focusing on the total number of people with COVID and focus instead on the number of patients who are being hospitalized or dying from it, the Kansas Republican told an audience in Topeka.

Hospitalizations and deaths are considerably lower with the delta variant, which is "not as lethal" as COVID's initial version, Marshall said.

"If you've had the vaccination or if you've had natural immunity, it works 95% of the time to keep you from being hospitalized," he said.

Members of the public posed questions to Sen. Roger Marshall.

Marshall, a physician who received his second vaccination in early January, spoke at an 8 a.m. town hall meeting attended by about 80 people at Philip Billard Post No 1650 of Veterans of Foreign Wars, 3110 S.W. Huntoon.

"I knew that I would get some really strong, traditional Kansans if we did it early in the morning," he said. "It's great to be back here in the capital city."

Roger Marshall: Keep schools, economy open

Saturday's town hall came two days after Marshall shared comments regarding the COVID situation Thursday on Twitter.

"This is not the time to close down schools, close down the economy or insist on mask mandates," he wrote. "This is a time to believe in the science of our vaccines and natural immunity — that they work, that you don’t need masks, and that we don’t need to shut things down again."

Marshall revisited the topic Saturday.

"I was in probably 10 or 12 town halls in northwest/southwest Kansas the last two weeks," he said. "They haven't admitted a patient with COVID since February."

However, the senator acknowledged hospitalization rates vary throughout the state.

"What's going on in Shawnee County can be a world of difference than what's happening in Johnson County, Sedgwick County, or Rawlins County, where Atwood, Kansas, is," he said. "There's not a one size fits all."

This man was among military veterans who posed questions to Sen. Roger Marshall.

Topeka's Stormont Vail Health announced Friday that it was treating 30 patients for COVID-19.

Marshall continued Saturday to call for schools to not be shut down and for students to not be forced to wear masks.

"To my knowledge, no child under the age of 18 has died from this unless they had an underlying condition," he said.

Masks cause 'psychological damage,' senator says

Wearing masks causes psychological damage to children and adults, Marshall added.

"And I think the younger, the more psychological damage is being done," he said.

Still, Marshall said he thought decisions on whether to close schools and/or require masks should be left up to local school boards.

"That's why we hire and fire those people," he said.

Marshall respects the decisions of those who haven't yet gotten their COVID shot, he said.

"That is a decision between you and your doctor," he said.

Marshall began Saturday's event by asking those present how many watched opening ceremonies for the Olympics, how many feel like there's a crisis at the Mexican border, how many are glad the fence around the U.S. Capitol has been taken down and how many are starting to feel the bite of inflation, at a time when gasoline prices are rising. 

Most raised their hands to answer "yes" to the last three questions but not the first.

Roger Marshall addresses Jan. 6 insurrection

In response to an audience member's question about the status of criminal cases against hundreds of Americans facing charges after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation's Capitol, Marshall said he would only address the six Kansans who are charged.

All of those are free and awaiting trial except for one, who remains in custody,  he said.

"They told me that he's a danger to himself and others," Marshall said.

Saturday's town hall meeting ended on a tense note, with the last two questions being asked by people who appeared to feel very strongly about the matters involved.

One was unhappy about the large amount of federal money being spent to deal with COVID-19 while the other contended the government was violating the constitutional rights of people arrested at the Jan. 6 riot by failing to provide them speedy trials.