Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Nov. 29 that he fears a dramatic resurgence of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, and urged further curbs on bars and restaurants to limit community spread, while recommending that schools stay open.
“We say it not being facetiously as a sound bite or anything, but, you know, close the bars and keep the schools open is what we really say,” Fauci said during a virtual appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
Fauci’s remarks come as virus-related hospitalizations set another record on Nov. 28, and daily new infections surged in recent weeks to their highest levels yet in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Reported daily deaths due to the virus are around 25 percent below their April peaks.
Acknowledging the “fatigue that everyone is feeling” about the restrictions that have been imposed to curb the spread of the virus, Fauci expressed hope that COVID-19 vaccines would be available soon and urged people to keep observing health measures such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, social distancing, and washing hands.
“They seem simple in the enormity of the problem that we’re facing, but they do make a difference,” he said.
Speaking about opening schools, Fauci said the spread of the virus among and between children “is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected,” asserting that community spread is the real risk.
“So, let’s try to get the kids back,” he said, while urging a focus on measures to reduce community-level spread.
“And those are the things that you know well—the bars, the restaurants where you have capacity seating indoors without masks, those are the things that drive the community spread, not the schools.”
His remarks come in the wake of data from a Harvard-run database that tracks the economic impact of the pandemic, which shows that between 20.5 percent (Nebraska and North Carolina) and 47.1 percent (Washington, D.C.) of small businesses in states across the country remain closed compared to January.
Fauci’s position on schools reopening echoes that presented by other members of the White House coronavirus task force, who have taken the stance that it’s safe for schools to reopen and that shutting them down carries a range of downsides, including that it disproportionately impacts children with disabilities, mental and emotional health issues, and those facing abuse.
Vice President Mike Pence, at a Nov. 19 briefing, said the Trump administration is opposed to both nationwide lockdowns and school closures, and noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has never recommended shutting schools.
“We think our kids belong in the classroom,” Pence said. “We’re absolutely committed to continue to provide resources so our kids, our teachers, our administrators can safely get back to school.”
Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the CDC, said at the briefing that a growing body of evidence about the CCP virus supports the view that schools need not be closed.
“Back in the spring, there was limited data,” Redfield said. “Today, there’s extensive data that we’ve gathered over the last two to three months to confirm that K–12 schools can operate with face-to-face learning, and they can do it safely, and they can do it responsibly.”
He said data shows that the infections that have been identified in schools actually took place in the community and in households.
“The truth is for kids K through 12, one of the safest [places] they can be from our perspective is to remain in school,” Redfield said, adding that it’s important to follow the data, “making sure we don’t make emotional decisions about what to close and what not to close.”