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Fauci: Schools should try to open in fall, but schools in hot spots should be cautious

Fauci to speak at Georgetown event Tuesday
Posted at 4:00 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 21:04:36-04

Dr. Anthony Fauci again broke with President Donald Trump on several key aspects to the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic during a conversation at Georgetown University on Tuesday.

Notably, Fauci said that while schools' goal should be to reopen in the fall, the decision should be left up to local districts in areas where the virus is surging.

"We should try as best as possible to keep kids in school," Fauci said. "...however, that's going to vary depending on where you are in the country."

Fauci said in areas where the virus isn't prevalent; schools should feel comfortable reopening to students. But in areas where cases are spiking — Fauci identified Arizona, California, Florida and Texas as states where the pandemic is the worst — the decision should be left to local officials.

He added that districts should "make a decision based on the judgment that the safety of the children and safety of the teachers is paramount."

President Donald Trump has called for all schools to reopen in the fall, and threaten to withhold federal funding in districts that choose not to open to students.

In addition, Fauci also broke with Trump on testing. While Trump has said as recently as Saturday that spiking case numbers in America are the result of a high volume of tests, Fauci pointed out that other troubling specifics are on the rise.

"There's no doubt it's both (the number of tests and the uncontrollable spread of the virus that are causing case numbers to rise)," Fauci said.

He added that the percentage of positive tests to the total number of tests taken is on the rise in many parts of the country. He also pointed out the hospitalizations are also up throughout the country and added that deaths may rise in the coming days.

However, Fauci added that he does not believe the average amount of deaths will rise to the level of where they were in the spring, adding that the average age of a COVID-19 patient is skewing younger than it was earlier in the pandemic.

Finally, Fauci was asked who Americans should trust during the pandemic.

"Trust respected medical authorities...who have a track record of telling the truth," Fauci said. He included himself among the group of "respected medical authorities."

The discussion was hosted both by Georgetown's Institute of Politics and Public Service and the Global Health Initiative.

Fauci's comments come as the White House continues to sideline him from official briefings with the Coronavirus Task Force, of which he is a member. It also comes days after reports emerged that White House officials were "concerned" about Fauci's recommendations during the pandemic, including advice from earlier this year in which he urged Americans not to wear masks.

Initially, Fauci did recommend that Americans avoid wearing masks in an effort to keep from emptying an already-depleted stockpile of personal protective equipment. He has since made an about-face and has urged all Americans to wear masks. He's also admitted that the mixed messaging has been detrimental in slowing the spread of the virus.

"We have to admit it, that that mixed message in the beginning, even though it was well-meant to allow masks to be available for health workers, that was detrimental in getting the message across," Fauci told NPR earlier this month. "No doubt about it."

Meanwhile, other White House officials — like Surgeon General Jerome Adams — also initially recommended against the use of masks. President Donald Trump has also spread disinformation about the virus, and retweeted claims that "everyone is lying" about the disease — including the CDC.

On Monday, Trump claimed that despite Fauci's lack of public appearances, the two still have a "good" relationship.

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