Dr. Anthony Fauci, alongside other top government health officials, testified Tuesday before a Senate hearing about reopening businesses, schools, and more. The committee, chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, sat six-feet apart with some other members appearing remotely. Alexander, a Republican, also began the proceedings by reaffirming his support for face mask requirements.

“Unfortunately this simple life-saving practice has become part of the political debate,” Alexander said, while also insisting that masks can be removed for speaking.

In his opening remarks, Fauci echoed earlier statements he made about a potential vaccine for COVID-19, stating that it is not a certainty that the U.S. will be able to develop a safe and functional vaccine. Despite this, he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the prospect based on early results.

“But we are cautiously optimistic, looking at animal data and the preliminary data, that we will at least know the extent of the efficacy sometime in the winter and early part of next year,” he explained.

On the subject of reopening schools, Fauci emphasized that the tactics used should align with the level of “infection dynamics” in any given area where a district is located. He further noted that the CDC offers guidelines for school reopening for regions at differing phases of opening.

“The CDC has guidelines about the opening of schools at various stages of those checkpoints,” Fauci explained. “The basic fundamental goal would be as you possibly can to get the children back to school and to use the public health as a tool to help get children back to school.”

In general, Fauci suggested that schools could consider altering schedules, alternating days, holding classes earlier or later, and continuing to hold some lessons online. Despite many experts urging patience when reopening certain institutions, Fauci said that reopening schools is of the utmost importance, as keeping children out of school can have “unintended negative consequences.”

As he continued, Fauci criticized how many states have handled reopening procedures, in particular how some have moved too fast and how many individuals have ignored guidelines. Prior to the hearing, he said that while he would give some areas a grade of A+ or A on their handling of the situation, some states he would give a C. While declining to specify which states he felt deserved a C, he did single out New York City as having handled reopening “really well.”

“We've got to make sure that when states try and open again, they need to follow the guidelines that have been very carefully laid out with regard to checkpoints,” Fauci said. “What we've seen in several states are different iterations of that, perhaps maybe in some going too quickly and skipping over some of the checkpoints.”

Fauci later offered a grim prediction if the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. continues at its current pace. While not willing to make a specific prediction about death toll, he said that the numbers would be "disturbing." 

"I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country even though in other parts of the country they are doing well, they are vulnerable," Fauci explained.

In terms of businesses opening back up, Fauci took a hard stance on bars. The infectious disease experts called bars "bad news," especially with customers crowding around in them and urged Americans to stop going to them for the time being. 

SOUNDBITEThe United States is facing a "serious problem" as southern and western states experience a surge in coronavirus cases, says leading government expect Anthony Fauci. SOUNDBITEThe United States is facing a "serious problem" as southern and western states experience a surge in coronavirus cases, says leading government expect Anthony Fauci. Photo: DC POOL /