Dr. Anthony Fauci hems and haws as he dances around the question of whether to open schools. He is trying his best not to anger the touchy Trump, not to provoke an angry tweet. He is worried about the death threats that follow when he takes issue with Trump’s bombast. He thinks children should be in school, except when they shouldn’t be. He has become the Delphic Oracle of COVID-19. Interpret his responses as you wish.

From an article in the Washington Post:

POWER UP’S FAUCI INTERVIEW: The nation’s top infectious-disease expert wants kids to be able to return to school under certain conditions, even though the novel coronavirus is worsening in many states across the country.

In an interview with Power Up, Anthony S. Fauci cautiously supported the Trump administration’s push to reopen elementary and secondary schools — and in some cases, college campuses — this fall.

But he leavened his advice by explaining sending kids back into classrooms depends on how bad the virus is in various places.
• “The default principle should be to try as best you can to get the children back to school,” Fauci told us. “The big, however, and qualifier in there is that you have to have a degree of flexibility. The flexibility means if you look at the map of our country, we are not unidimensional with regard to the level of infection.”

“The bottom line is everybody should try within the context of the level of infection that you have to get the kids back to school, but the primary consideration … should be the safety, health and the welfare of the children, as well as the teachers and the potential secondary effects on parents and family members,” he added.

Fauci explained the need to protect the psychological and physical well being of children — especially those “who rely heavily on school for proper nutrition” — and to prevent a “negative downstream ripple effect” of parents being overburdened if schools remain shuttered.

“As you know, there are some sections of the country — where the infection is really quite well controlled and there are others in which it’s smoldering a little and there are others in which we’re clearly having a surging of infection,” Fauci added.

Here’s what the doctor recommends:

• States with minimal virus: “So if you’re in one of those areas, generally referred to as the green states … with some overlap with others and generally, you can get back to school with the kinds of precautions that you do in general society,” he said.

• States with “smoldering infections”: “You might want to tighten that up a bit and do things like, you know, the hybrid models where you have part online, part in person,” he said.

•States with high infections: In consultation with local authorities, and the Centers for Disease Control, “they may want to pause before they start sending the kids back to school for a variety of reasons.”

Outdoor learning: “I’ve spoken to superintendents and principals, and recommend if possible, outdoors, better than indoors. If possible, keep the classrooms well ventilated with the windows open if possible, wearing a mask, physical separation, desks that are put further apart, if you could possibly, physically do that,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s analysis of the virus — and how it influences school openings — is a far cry from his boss’s recent forecasts.
President Trump continues to maintain the novel coronavirus that has killed at least 156,000 Americans will just “go away.”

And though there’s still no national testing strategy, he continues to push for school reopenings — though it isn’t ultimately up to the president whether they do so. His Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has also downplayed the risks of the virus among children, falsely claiming children are “stoppers” of the virus. [Ed. note: they’re not.]

The school showdown comes as the academic year is already starting in some states, and infections are being discovered.

• In Corinth, Miss., for example, after six students and one staff member were infected, 116 students were sent home to quarantine. Few were spotted wearing masks in Dallas, Ga., after a photo of a packed hallway at North Paulding High School went viral, where masks are not required but strongly encouraged.

Most American parents think it is unsafe to send their children back to school, according to a Washington Post-Schar School survey conducted by Ipsos released on Thursday, with over 80 percent of parents preferring to resume school at “least partly online.”

Fauci also weighed in on the other big issue facing Americans this fall – whether it’s safe to physically go to voting booths in November. The doctor, who Trump has sidelined in recent months because of conflicting opinions and a more popular public profile, said  Americans could go to voting booths if they’re careful.
• “Universal wearing of a mask, maintain physical distance of at least six feet, avoid crowds, outdoors better than indoors. And then if the other is avoid situations like going to bars and places where you know infection is spread pretty easily,” said Fauci.

When pressed on whether he’d recommend mail voting as safer during a pandemic, Fauci declined to answer “because that almost certainly is going to be used as a soundbite.” 

“It’s a sport now in Washington to pit me against the president and I don’t really want to do that,” Fauci said. “But someone will take a quote and bingo, it’ll be me against the president and I don’t want to do that,” Fauci explained.

Trump has repeatedly, and baselessly, bashed mail-in voting as fraudulent as many states ramp up their mail voting systems to provide options for those people who prefer not to physically go to to the polls due to the coronavirus.
Fauci said polling places should operate like grocery stores and shops.
• “

We see a big X and then six feet away is another big X speed away is another big X,” Fauci told Power Up. “I don’t see any reason why, if people maintain that type of physical distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands – why you cannot, at least where I vote, go to a place and vote.”

Plead the fifth: Fauci also declined to respond to calls for Congress to implement rapid covid-19 testing on Capitol Hill.
The doctor’s reticence to answer questions that could be perceived as political highlights the fraught relationship between the president and his team of medical experts.

Fauci, who has received death threats against him and his family, says he is shocked by the polarized response to public health guidance during the pandemic.

“Of all the outbreaks that I’ve been involved with way back from the day of, of HIV and Ebola, Zika, pandemic, flu, and anthrax — there’s always a little bit of people that might push back on a message, but it was never with threats against you and your family, your wife, and my daughters,” said Fauci. “I mean, harassing my daughters? Wow. No, I never would have ever imagined that.”

“It’s a highly divisive situation,” he added. “But as long as I’m able to go out there and give the kinds of messages that I’ve been giving, I don’t feel constrained because I give a message to the public about what they need to do … I think that we might be able to prevent people from acquiring infection if they listened to my public health message and I could do that effectively without getting into the political divisiveness.”

Fauci’s longtime friend and colleague, Deborah Birx, has also recently been on the receiving end of Trump’s attacks after months of favor. Trump this week went after his White House coronavirus task force coordinator for last weekend describing the virus as  “extraordinarily widespread” across the nation.

Birx is drawing criticism from old allies who blame her for being too close to Trump and helping to mismanage the virus.

In our interview, Fauci signaled support for Birx and endorsed her recent recommendation to wear masks at home — “it should be seriously considered” — to limit the spread, especially if people live with someone who is older or has preexisting medical conditions. 

“What we’re seeing, as Dr. Birx described, is that we’ve had a flare and a surge in certain Southern states, which thankfully, in several of them we’re starting to turn the corner and come down,” Fauci told us.

I am fully supportive of my colleague, Dr. Birx. I have been a colleague and a friend for over three decades. And that hasn’t changed one bit. She’s a very talented person and she’s an extremely hard worker and I support her fully.”