Dr. Fauci says it’s ‘safe enough’ for kids to be in school despite Omicron surge

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Dr. Fauci says it's 'safe enough' for kids to be in school despite Omicron surge

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that Omicron infections have shattered records and threaten to overburden hospitals — but that kids are safe to return to school after the holiday break.

The White House’s chief medical advisor told “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” that the COVID-19 variant has ripped through the US at an “unprecedented” rate of roughly 400,000 cases per day.

“There’s no doubt about it, the acceleration of cases that we have seen is really unprecedented, gone well beyond anything we have seen before,” Fauci said. “We are definitely in the middle of a very severe surge and uptick in cases. We’re now at an average of about 400,000 cases per day. Hospitalizations are up.”

Prior to the emergence of Omicron, the daily average of COVID-19 infections peaked at about 251,000 in January 2021, according to case data compiled by the New York Times.

Despite evidence that Omicron leads to less serious symptoms, Fauci said he fears hospitals will be swamped due to the high number of infections.

“Even if you have a less of a percentage of severity, when you have multi-multi-multi-fold more people getting infected, the net amount is you’re still going to get a lot of people that are going to be needing hospitalization,” he said. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said he fears hospitals will be swamped due to the high number of infections.
Susan Walsh/AP

“And that’s the reason why we’re concerned about stressing and straining the hospital system.”

Even with a spike in cases, Fauci said he’s confident that it’s safe to open US schools after the holiday break.

“I believe it is [the right call],” he said. “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. We now can vaccinate children from 5 years of age and older.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“It’s safe enough to get those kids back to school,” Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

“Wearing masks in the school setting, doing test-to-stay approaches when children get infected, 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 didn’t address data showing an alarming spike in children hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent weeks, including a two-fold increase among kids in New York.

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