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Fauci told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos that despite the rising cases of the omicron variant, he believes reopening schools for in-person learning is the right call given widespread vaccinations among teachers and the negative effects on students of not attending in-person.
“When we’ve done the balance so many times over the last year about the deleterious effects of keeping children out of in physical presence in the school, and it’s very clear that there are some really serious effects about that,” said Fauci.
“If you look at the safety of children with regard to infection, we have most of the teachers, [an] overwhelming majority of them are vaccinated,” Fauci continued. “We now can vaccinate children from 5 years of age and older.”
“I plead with parents to please seriously consider vaccinating your children, wearing masks in the school setting, doing test-to-stay approaches when children get infected,” Fauci added. “I think all those things put together, it’s safe enough to get those kids back to school, balanced against the deleterious effects of keeping them out.”
Fauci’s guidance stands in contrast to some teachers unions that are advocating for schools to stay closed as COVID-19 cases surge amid the omicron variant.
On Friday, the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts released a statement questioning the safety of returning to in-person learning.
Beth Kontos, the president of the federation, said, “Massachusetts public school students and their families have struggled with the uncertainty and anxiety of the COVID pandemic for two years. They have the right to know that after the holiday break they are returning to safe schools. Given the ever-increasing infection rate and the virulent behavior of the current COVID strain, we know they will not.”
“The tests provided by the state allow for testing of all teachers and staff, and that should proceed. It should then be followed by a period of remote learning until the current wave of infections abates,” Kontos continued.
“This is not the time for finger pointing. It is time for Governor Baker and Commission Reilly to accept the fact that we are in the midst of a runaway public health crisis that is beyond our control. They must acknowledge that returning students to school on Monday will inevitably make the crisis much worse,” Kontos added.
Last week, Chicago Teachers Union members threatened to strike if their demands for negative coronavirus tests for all students to return to class after winter break — or a two-week return to remote learning — are not met.
More than 90% of CTU members voted in favor of participating in “a remote-work action” as soon as “the first week” after winter break if CPS “doesn’t call for a period of remote instruction after winter break,” according to a Wednesday news release from CTU President Jesse Sharkey.
Teachers unions have become increasingly politically active in recent years, and according to Open Secrets donate about 94% of their political contributions to Democrats.
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.