Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday the nation's schools should be open "full blast" five days a week this fall after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can resume activities without masks or other restrictions.
During an interview on CNN, Fauci was asked if he agreed with the CDC director and the president of the American Federation of Teachers that schools should be 100% open in the fall.
"Yeah. I agree with that," the White House chief medical advisor said. "I believe the schools should be open five days, full blast, just the way it was before. We really have to do that by the time we get to the fall."
Fauci said a decision on whether students, even those fully vaccinated, will be required to wear masks will be up to the CDC.
"[I] would think that that certainly would be an option, if the children are vaccinated not to have a mask," he said.
Republicans have pushed for schools to restart in-person instruction since the beginning of the year.
In March, 57 GOP House members lined up on the chamber’s floor to call for a vote on Republican-based legislation that tied school funding to reopening plans, The Hill reported.
Fauci spoke after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced earlier in the day that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors or maintain physical distance.
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!"
On Wednesday, the CDC recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be administered to children ages 12 to 15.
Walensky’s latest announcement was a major step in the Biden administration's goal of reopening the country by July 4.
Fauci was asked on CNN if he thinks places such as grocery stores and pharmacies should allow vaccinated people to shop without masks.
"Absolutely," he said.
When pressed if restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, and other such public places should let vaccinated people in without masks, Fauci said, "that’s going to be a real difficult one" because of the pushback that could result by asking people if they’ve 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."
Fauci responded in similar fashion after being asked if local and state governments should drop mask mandates for vaccinated people.
"Well, for people who are vaccinated, that's another story," he said. "But the problem they're going to find, 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.
"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."
Fauci said the CDC's latest announcement was "a step in the direction that we want to go," but he refused to say the pandemic was over or close to it.
"I wouldn't go so far as to say it's essentially over," he said. "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.
"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."
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