Because the coronavirus pandemic is just more than six months old, each new season brings a new host of widespread concerns. This fall, can children go to school safely? Should they wear masks? In an era in which social distancing is key to avoiding infection—catching hockey or football games are out—but what about that time-honored tradition of standing in line at the local community center to cast a ballot on Election Day in November? Fauci weighed in on the safety of these scenarios and offered his predictions for next year as part of National Geographic’s event “Stopping Pandemics.” Read on, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
With the presidential election less than 90 days away, there’s widespread concern about whether in-person voting—with its standing in line and use of community machines—will be safe in a pandemic. Fauci said it would be.
“I think if carefully done, according to the guidelines, there’s no reason that I can see why that can’t be the case,” he said. “For example: When you look at going to a grocery store now in many regions that are doing it correctly, they have Xs every six or more feet. And it says, ‘Don’t leave this spot until the person in front of you left their spot.’ And you can do that. If you go and wear a mask, if you observe the physical distancing and don’t have a [pre-existing] situation, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote in person or otherwise.”
Fauci repeated his belief that children should be in classrooms this fall, but policies should depend on infection rates in each locality. “The primary consideration is the safety and the welfare of the children, as well as their teachers and the secondary effects on people,” he said.
“What I really mean is that we live in a big country, and there are areas of the country —the green zones, as we call them—where the level of infection is low enough that you really should try very hard to get the children back to school,” said Fauci. “There are also areas which we generally refer to as the yellow zone, where there are levels of infection, that to get the children back, you should carefully follow the CDC guidelines. It’s not going to be one-size-fits-all.”
Fauci supported the CDC’s new guidance that children should wear masks in the classroom. “That depends on the age and the level of infection,” he said. “If you’re in an area where there is active community transmission, I would recommend strongly that if the children are old enough to be able to keep a mask on, you put masks on children.”
The expert was guardedly optimistic about what the pandemic will look like in a year’s time. “A lot of it is going to be up to us as citizens—to uniformly adhere to public-health principles at the same time that we’re fortunate enough to have good therapies and a vaccine that’s effective,” he said. “If we do, we will be in a good place by this time next year.”
Fauci reiterated his key tips to prevent contracting COVID-19: “[Social] distancing, masks, avoiding crowds, outdoors is better than indoors, washing hands, doing things like closing bars where appropriate, because that seems to be a hotspot of transmission.” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 37 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.