Fauci says whether schools reopen in fall depends on location, 'dynamics' of virus outbreak

Fauci also said the country could have as many as 100,000 cases a day, amid the recent spike in the number of infections.

Updated: June 30, 2020 - 7:49pm

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told Congress on Tuesday that students returning to school still depends on several factors, particularly how the coronavirus pandemic is trending and the location of the school. 

School reopening "depends on the dynamics of the outbreak and where the school is,” Fauci said in response to a question by Lamar Alexander. 

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on school reopening and the search for a vaccine.

Fauci said online classes may need to be allowed for “certain circumstances.”

He also issued the stark warning that the U.S. could have as many as 100,000 cases a day, amid a recent spike in the number of infections.

Whether schools will reopen in September after being shuttered because of the virus — and, if so, whether fully or partially — is among the biggest looming questions for Americans, with start dates now just about eight weeks away. 

Libertarian-minded GOP Sen. Rand Paul made a case for students to return in the fall, citing data showing no surge in cases when schools in Austria, Belgium, Netherlands reopened. He also said studies at Brown University and the YMCA show that children rarely contact COVID-19 and they should go back to school.

“Just yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics said we have to get kids back in school, we want them physically present in school,” said Paul, of Kentucky. “They even cite mounting evidence that children are less likely to contract the virus.”

“The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school,” according to the organization's interim guidance on school re-entry

The AAP urges policy makers to "acknowledge that COVID-19 policies are intended to mitigate, not eliminate, risk." 

Fauci also told Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins that schools, to avoid virus spread, could use a method known as pool testing, which saves money and resources.

The process entails samples from several people being  tested together in a single tube. If it comes back negative, researchers will know the entire group is negative. But if the results come back positive, each person would have to be retested with standard diagnostic testing.

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