WASHINGTON - Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the face of the White House's coronavirus response, predicted Tuesday night that the United States will be able to reopen its schools in the fall thanks to the expected progress by then in disease mitigation measures for the coronavirus.
Fauci made the comments in response to a reporter during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.
"You know, it is unpredictable, but you can get a feel for it if we start talking about the things where the curve goes down," Fauci said. "How we respond and what kind of a rebound we see or don't see, I think is going to have a lot of influence probably more immediately on things like summer camps than it does in the fall," he continued.
He continued: "I fully expect – though, I'm humble enough to know that I can't accurately predict – that by the time we get to the fall that we will have this under control, enough that it certainly will not be the way it is now where people are shutting schools."
The pandemic expert made clear, however, that the coronavirus isn't going to just go away. He said that he expects by the fall the U.S. will have enough herd immunity and have honed its disease mitigation protocols for the coronavirus enough that people will be able to return to public settings.
"My optimistic side tells me that we'll be able to renew to a certain extent, but it's going to be different. Remember now because this is not going to disappear," Fauci said. "So we're going to have to have in place the capability of doing the things that we talk about all the time on this stage, to identify, to isolate, to contact trace — number one. Number two, by that time, we'll have a better feel with the antibody test about what the actual penetrance of this infection was in society."
A test for coronavirus antibodies, Fauci said, would be important because it could reveal how many people may have caught the disease earlier in the year but did not show symptoms, and are now largely protected from the coronavirus thanks to their own immune systems.
Schoolchildren and college students would return to their classrooms right around the time that some – including Fauci himself – have predicted there could be a second wave of coronavirus cases.
"In fact, I would anticipate that that would actually happen because of the degree of transmissibility," Fauci said last week of an increase in cases during the fall. He noted, however, that not only will the government's disease mitigation measures and people's immune systems be reinforced by the fall, but that there may also be some treatments for the coronavirus by then.
"However, if you come back in the fall, it will be a totally different ball game," he said. "We have a number of clinical trials that are looking at a variety of therapeutic interventions... As I mentioned to you many times at these briefings is that we have a vaccine that's on track and multiple other candidates... If we start seeing an efficacy signal, we may be able to even use a vaccine at the next season."
Fauci noted Tuesday that his daughter is a school teacher so she has also asked him whether the U.S. could open its schools again in the fall.
Vice President Mike Pence, while responding to the same question asked by Fauci, noted that his wife is also a teacher as he thanked educators for their dedication to students — and issued a warning to kids nationwide.
"To all the teachers who are out there, we just want to say thank you ... for continuing learning in this challenging time," Pence said. "To all the kids, just because you're home doesn't mean you don't have to do your schoolwork."