Dr. Anthony Fauci says a COVID-19 stimulus package needs to pass for schools to reopen safely.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, discussed Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” the new guidelines released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. He said school districts will need more resources to follow the guidelines.
“That’s the reason why the national relief act that we’re talking about getting passed — we need that,” he said.
The guidelines, released Friday and developed along with the Education Department, recommend that schools prioritize mandating mask use and social distancing to safely reopen but said access to COVID-19 vaccines should “not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction.”
The CDC also said hand washing, cleaning buildings, contact tracing and isolating those exposed to the coronavirus or showing symptoms are also important steps to safely reopen.
“The things we didn’t have before, there wasn’t that was — there wasn’t anything that was put down solidly on paper on saying, these are the kinds of things that you should consider, these are the kind of things that you should follow,” Fauci said of the new guidelines on “This Week.”
Fauci’s comments come as Democrats have said they hope to have a COVID-19 stimulus bill passed by mid March and as House committees have begun passing portions of the bill.
Earlier this month, the Senate moved forward with passing Biden’s relief plan without Republican support.
Some lawmakers have balked at the cost of Biden’s $1.9 trillion package and questioned its timing given the passage of the $900 billion relief package late last year. Earlier this month, a group of 10 Republican senators unveiled a slimmed-down, $618 billion counteroffer that includes less aid for schools, no aid for state and local governments, and smaller stimulus checks for fewer Americans.
But passing Biden’s package through budget reconciliation — a process that allows for “expedited consideration” of matters related to spending, taxes and debt — will allow the legislation to pass with a simple majority in the Senate instead of 60 votes. The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, and Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as the tiebreaker if needed.
Biden’s plan includes $130 billion in aid for schools.
It also includes $1,400 in direct payments to most Americans, a $400 weekly unemployment boost through September, $415 billion toward pandemic response and COVID-19 vaccinations, and roughly $440 billion for small businesses and communities among other things.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, made comments similar to Fauci’s on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying not all schools are able to fully implement mitigation efforts right now.
“The American Rescue Plan has resources — $130 billion of resources — to facilitate and help schools get there and that’s really why we’re pushing for the rescue plan so that we can facilitate getting those schools all of those mitigation measures so that they can open safely,” Walensky said.
Fauci said Sunday that he thinks reopening schools safely “can be done.”
“I mean, obviously, it’s not a perfect situation,” he told “This Week.” “But it’s really important to get the children back to school in as safe a way as possible, safe for the children, but also safe for the teachers and the other educators.”