Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said on Sunday that a stimulus bill needed to be passed in order for schools to safely reopen.
While appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci spoke with host George Stephanopoulos about how schools could safely reopen, expanding on new guidelines that were recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“It’s the first time that it’s been put down in a document based on scientific observations and data over the last several months to a year, both in the United States and elsewhere. Part of that is to indicate and to suggest strongly that a preference be given to teachers to get vaccinated,” Fauci said, though he added it was possible to reopen schools without having all teachers vaccinated beforehand.
When asked by Stephanopoulos if schools had the resources available to abide by the new CDC guidelines, Fauci said he did not believe so.
“I think that the schools really do need more resources and that’s the reason why the national relief act that we’re talking about getting passed — we need that. The schools need more resources.”
House committees have begun marking up portions of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, and Democrats have vowed to pass a final bill into law by early next month.
However, Fauci on Sunday appeared to be optimistic about reopening schools, a move that he has been supportive of throughout the pandemic, arguing the detriment to young students was too great.
“I think it can be done. I mean, obviously it’s not a perfect situation, but it’s really important to get the children back to school in a safest way as possible. Safe for the children, but also safe for the teachers and the other educators,” Fauci said.
In its new guidelines for school reopenings, the CDC said it was “critical for schools to open as safely and as soon as possible,” due to the benefits from in-person learning. Data from the past year has shown a decline in not only students’ academic performance, but also in their mental health and well-being as classes moved online and at-home.
Fauci also touched on the rising threat posed by the coronavirus variants from the U.K. and South Africa. He stated that the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer have been shown to be “clearly” effective against the U.K. variant and stated that widespread vaccine administration was the best way to avoid “serious consequences.”
Stephanopoulos noted that the data regarding the South Africa variant was lacking. Recent data has suggested that the South Africa strain is more resistant to current vaccines.
“We do know that it evades the protection from some of the monoclonal antibodies and it diminishes somewhat the capability and the effectiveness of the vaccine to block it. It doesn’t eliminate it but it diminishes it by multiple fold. There’s still some cushion left so that the vaccine does provide some protection against it,” Fauci said.