Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, has issued an urgent warning to the incoming White House administration amid an alarming spike in Covid-19 cases nationwide: “Close the bars and keep the schools open.”
Speaking to ABC News on Sunday morning, the immunologist was asked how he would advise President-elect Joe Biden’s administration on the coronavirus pandemic, and specifically how he would go about keeping schools open — something Dr Fauci has insisted should happen despite the rise in infections.
“We say it not being facetiously as a soundbite or anything: close the bars and keep the schools open,” he said. “You don’t have ‘one-size-fits-all,’ but as I said in the past … the default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school, to get them back to school.”
He added: “The best way to ensure the safety of the children in school is to get the community level of the spread low.”
His comments came as a debate continued over whether states should allow schools to remain open amid what some analysts have described as a “second wave,” with cases rising in many southern states that were not as significantly impacted by the pandemic in the initial months of the outbreak in the US.
Dr Fauci noted how growing research showed the spread of Covid-19 among children was significantly lower than that among older demographics, and that Covid-19 cases largely stemmed from more high-risk environments like bars and indoor restaurants.
“If you mitigate the things that you know that are causing spread in a very profound way,” he said, “you will then indirectly protect the children in the school.”
More than 265,000 Americans have died as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic according to recent tracking data, as state officials once again began imposing restrictions on schools and businesses in an effort to curb infections ahead of the winter months.
In New York City, schools were ordered to close once again after the infection rate rose above three percent, a marker at which Mayor Bill de Blasio had already vowed would determine whether schools could remain open.
Analysts have noted the appetite for lockdown orders waned significantly in recent months despite the surge in new cases. Dr Fauci has meanwhile insisted Americans should follow social distancing measures and avoid things like indoor dining and socialising at bars to help lower the rate of infections.
In a previous interview last week with Fox 5 DC, Dr Fauci said “the infection rate among the children is much lower than one would’ve thought” and added: “It’s much better to close the bars and keep the schools open than to keep the bars open and close the schools.”
On Sunday, the NIAID director said the pandemic is “going to get worse” and added that the country would see an uptick in cases due to Thanksgiving travel.