Dr. Anthony Fauci dismissed shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic as collateral damage while speaking at an event on Wednesday.
Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president, blamed “divisiveness in society” and people on social media for creating an “incomprehensible confusion” about his guidance during the pandemic. He went on to justify the harsh COVID-19 mandates imposed by the federal government under his guidance, including lockdowns, vaccinations, and mandatory masking, by stating that hospitals were being “overrun” and he was forced to take “draconian” steps.
“And sometimes when you do draconian things, it has collateral negative consequences. Just like when you shut things down, even temporarily, it does have deleterious consequences on the economy, on the schoolchildren. You know that,” huh got at The Atlantic Festival.
In May 2020, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) criticized Fauci for the federal policy to keep schools closed and deprive children of in-person education despite data showing that COVID-19 was not overwhelmingly fatal, particularly among children. Fauci continued to insist on schools remaining closed.
Student grades suffered greatly during the pandemic. A study by the University of Virginia found that 34.9 percent of students in the state fell below the reading benchmark in Fall 2021, up from 30.8 percent in Fall 2020 during the height of the pandemic, and 21.3 percent in Fall 2019.
Another study, conducted by curriculum and assessment firm Amplify, found that students from kindergarten to grade 5 were worse off in literacy in mid-2021–2022 than they were in mid-2019–2020 before the pandemic.
Combating COVID-19 School Mandates
The Biden administration is still attempting to impose COVID-19 mandates in schools, with the GOP challenging such policies.
For instance, Head Start is a federal grant program aimed at helping children from low-income households prepare for school. In November last year, the Biden administration issued a rule stating that any child over the age of two who is enrolled in Head Start must wear masks indoors.
Florida’s Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a lawsuit against the rule and got the court to issue a preliminary injunction against the mandate. The Biden administration continues to fight the injunction.
Recently, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill designed to protect children in Washington DC public schools from mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. It seeks to block a 2021 bill that lists COVID-19 vaccines as a requirement for children.
In a statement, Cruz pointed out that the vaccine mandate will be “particularly harmful” for black students, who have a lower rate of vaccination.
“DC public schools are blatantly discriminating against black students in our nation’s capital. The rate of vaccination for black students between the ages of 12 and 15 in Washington, DC is 60 percent—far lower than the city average,” Cruz said.