Fauci: Returning Students to In-Person Learning Is ‘Not an Easy Issue’

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Dr. Anthony Fauci attends the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, April 13, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said returning students to in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic is “not an easy issue,” though the “default position is that we should try to do everything we can to get the children back to school safely.”

In an interview with Meet the Press that aired Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked Fauci if he would feel comfortable going into a classroom and teaching, adding that it has understandably caused “consternation” as scientists say reopening classrooms is “relatively safe” and teachers argue they are still taking a risk in returning to schools.

“You know it’s tough because I have not been in that situation,” Fauci said. “I can tell you I have a daughter who I adore who’s actually doing just that right now as we speak in a city far from Washington, D.C. so, I understand the concern that people have.”

“There’s so many complicated issues: how the teachers feel, how the parents feel about the possibility of bringing infection back home,” he said, adding that the “default position is that we should try to do everything we can to get the children back to school safely.”

“It’s not an easy issue,” Fauci added. Anybody who says it is an easy decision to make is not looking at the complexity of it.”

Todd asked Fauci, “Based on the CDC guidelines, what level of risk is an unvaccinated teacher taking right now by going in a reopened in school?”

“You cannot give a numerical figure to that,” Fauci responded. “You can’t say, ‘What is the risk? Give me a number.’” 

He continued: “I mean obviously being in school is very similar to being in the community, so the risk of a teacher getting infected in the school is very likely very much similar to what you would see in the community. But we don’t know that yet.”

Fauci said studies have not been done “where you can quantitate and make a decision” based on the outcome.

“The data get fuzzy when you try to compare what happens when you’re not in the school versus what happens when you are in the school,” he said. 

However, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky earlier this month supported schools reopening safely, saying there is “increasing data” that students can safely return to the classroom.

A peer-reviewed study from the American Academy of Pediatrics of more than 90,000 students and staff attending school in-person at eleven school districts found that only 32 COVID-19 infections were acquired within schools and no instances of child-to-adult transmission of the virus were reported.

“Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” Walensky said.

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