Schools throughout the United States should decide how and when to reopen according to the regional dynamics of the pandemic, rather than waiting for a vaccine to become available, said Dr. Anthony Fauci during his testimony before a Senate committee Tuesday.
“The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students in the fall would be something of a bridge too far,” Fauci, infectious disease expert and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told the leaders of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee at a hearing titled “Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School” via video conference. Fauci is undergoing self-quarantine after a White House staffer tested positive for COVID-19, the disease the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus causes.
“Even at the top speed we’re going, we don’t see a vaccine playing in the ability of individuals to get back to school this term,” he added. “What they really want is to know if they are safe.”
When Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) raised a series of concerns regarding keeping children at home, such as potential lack of nutrition, parents having to miss work, less frequent monitoring of child abuse and children not spending enough time learning, Fauci said he was well aware of those problems but didn’t have an easy way to address them.
Pressed on whether schools should reopen in the fall, Fauci said he expects schools to make that decision depending on how the situation looks in their region at that time.
“We’ll just have to see on a step-by-step basis,” he said. “We have a very large country, and the dynamics of the outbreak are different in different regions of the country, so I would imagine that situations regarding school will be very different in one region versus another.”
Fauci also acknowledged that he, as well as federal health officials, remained uncertain about how exactly the CCP virus affects children and adults differently. His remark followed criticism from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who emphasized that the mortality rate of the virus by far is significantly lower in children than in adults.
“I think the one-size-fits-all, [the idea] that we’re going to have a national strategy and nobody’s going to go to school, is kind of ridiculous,” said Paul, who in March became the first senator to test positive for COVID-19. “We really ought to be doing it school district by school district, and the power needs to be dispersed, because people make wrong predictions.”
“I don’t know everything. I’m very reserved about making broad predictions,” Fauci responded, recommending caution when it comes to children. “We don’t know everything about this virus and we should be careful, particularly about children.”