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Fact-checking Rand Paul’s assertions that schools are safe to reopen despite Dr. Fauci urging caution

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul criticized government experts about their response to Covid-19 and plans to reopen the country. Paul directed most of his ire at Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, who has frequently urged caution as US states reopen.

“Dr. Fauci, every day we seem to hear from you things we can’t do,” Paul said.

Paul was particularly concerned about the recommendations of experts concerning whether children should return to school in the fall.

“It’s important to realize that if society meekly submits to an expert and that expert is wrong, a great deal of harm may occur,” Paul said. “Take for example government experts who continue to call for schools and day care to stay closed or that recommend restrictions that make it impossible for a school to function.”

Paul argued schools should reopen because “children are less likely to contract the virus.” According to Paul, “there’s a great deal of evidence and it’s actually good, good evidence that kids aren’t transmitting this, it’s rare and that kids are staying healthy and that yes we can open our schools.”

Facts First: Even though children appear to be affected less commonly than adults, returning to school still poses certain risks because the extent to which children transmit the virus to others remains unclear. Decisions about how best to reopen schools also have to account for the potential impact on teachers, administrators, staff and parents, who might be more at risk, given that adults make up most of the known coronavirus cases.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reignited debate on Monday by issuing updated back-to-school recommendations in favor of children physically attending school this fall.

“The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school,” the group, which represents and guides pediatricians across the country, recommends on its website.

Despite the criticism from Paul, Fauci also supports efforts to reopen schools for the upcoming school year, testifying to the committee that “we need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school.”

While this is the goal, health experts, including Fauci and the AAP, acknowledge that certain steps must be taken before it is safe for everyone to return to school.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told the committee Tuesday the US should “work to reopening schools in a safe way,” keeping in mind that “we don’t know the impact that children have yet on the transmission cycle.”

The latest guidance from the AAP provides recommendations for policies and precautions that would help mitigate such threats.

“No single action or set of actions will completely eliminate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, but implementation of several coordinated interventions can greatly reduce that risk,” it said.



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