Fauci says school should be open ‘full blast’ five days a week in the fall

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Greg Nash

Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Thursday that schools in the fall should be open “full blast” five days a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume life without masks or other restrictions.

When asked by host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” if he agreed with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and the president of the American Federation of Teachers that schools in the fall should be 100 percent open and in-person five days a week, Fauci said he did.

“Yeah. I agree with that. I believe the schools should be open five days, full blast, just the way it was before,” Fauci said. “We really have to do that by the time we get to the fall.”

When pressed by Tapper, Fauci said that whether students will be required to wear masks — even if they’re fully vaccinated — will be up to the CDC, but he “would think that that certainly would be an option, if the children are vaccinated not to have a mask.”

Fauci’s comments come after the CDC announced Thursday that fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear masks indoors or outdoors or maintain physical distance. On Wednesday, the agency recommended that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be administered to children ages 12 to 15.

The change in restrictions represents a large shift in how the agency has communicated the risks of the coronavirus and the benefits of vaccines. It is also a major step in the Biden administration’s goal of reopening the country by July 4.

The potential for schools to reopen in person this fall comes after Republicans spent months pushing for schools to restart in-person instruction since the start of the year.

GOP lawmakers have put pressure on the Biden administration to allow schools to reopen. In March, 57 GOP House members lined up on the House floor to call for a vote on GOP-based legislation that tied school funding to reopening plans.

Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) applauded the new guidance on Thursday, writing that the nixing of restrictions can help the country “return to workplaces, schools, & other venues!”

Fauci also offered a promising assessment on shopping without masks for vaccinated individuals. When asked by Tapper if he thinks places like grocery stores and pharmacies should allow vaccinated people to shop without masks, Fauci said “absolutely.”

When pressed by Tapper on if public places like restaurants, bars and bowling alleys should let vaccinated people in without masks, Fauci said “that’s going to be a real difficult one,” because of the pushback that may come with asking people if they have been vaccinated.

“People feel very put upon if you’re essentially judging them on the basis of whether they have been vaccinated,” Fauci said.

“We want vaccinated – we want people to get vaccinated – as many people as we can possibly get vaccinated, but I think there’s going to be a pushback against questioning somebody when they walk in, because you can never validate or prove that they’re telling you the truth,” he continued.

Fauci added that this situation is “virtually a functional equivalent of a vaccine passport,” adding “I don’t think that’s going to work.”

He gave a similar response when asked if local and state governments should drop mask mandates for vaccinated people, telling Tapper it is a “dicey situation.”

“Well, for people who are vaccinated, that’s another story. But the problem they’re going to find, Jake, from a public health standpoint, since you can’t completely validate that someone’s vaccinated except depending upon them telling you that, if you drop the mask mandate, then you might have an increase in infection among those who are not vaccinated,” Fauci said.

“So that’s the kind of dicey situation that you’re in when you’re trying to deal about policy at the local level when you have a high degree of transmission. That’s not an easy decision to make,” he added.

Despite the new CDC guidance for vaccinated individuals, Fauci was hesitant to “declare victory” in the pandemic. Instead, he called the the day’s developments “a step in the direction that we want to go.”

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s essentially over. I think this is a very important step in the direction of trying to get back to some degree of normality, because this is something that everyone has had on their mind,” Fauci said.

“So, I wouldn’t want to declare victory prematurely, but I’m saying this is clearly a step in the direction that we want to go,” he added.

As of Thursday, more than 154 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 118 million have been fully inoculated, according to the CDC.

Tags Anthony Fauci coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 vaccine Darren Soto in-person learning Jake Tapper Joe Biden Rochelle Walensky school reopening

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