Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, is ready to get kids back in schools, and it could happen sooner rather than later.

Fauci told CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper” on Thursday that he thinks that schools in the U.S. will be open “full blast, five days a week by fall, just the way it was before.”

“We really have to do that by the time we get to the fall,” he said.

About half of all public schools in the U.S. are still open for in-person learning five days a week, according to The New York Times, as reported by Fox News.

The comments from Fauci come on the heels of the change in recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on indoor mask wearing for people who have been vaccinated.

On Thursday, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear face masks indoors or outdoors, or maintain physical distancing in most situations. 

Following the change in mask guidelines from the CDC for vaccinated people, Fauci was asked by CNN’s Tapper if vaccinated children should be allowed to not wear masks while in the classroom.

Fauci responded by saying, “I would think that would certainly be an option if the children are vaccinated, not to have a mask,” but said the recommendation for students would be left up to the CDC.

Children aged 12 to 15-years-old are eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID vaccine, which was approved for inoculation by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday.

Fauci remained hopeful, telling Tapper that vaccine studies are being done on children younger than 12, which could mean by kids of any age could be vaccinated by the end of the year.

But Fauci warned that the fight against COVID is not over, as he told the news outlet he is not ready yet to “declare victory” over the virus. He said the guidelines from the CDC were “a step in the direction that we want to go.”

“I wouldn't go so far as to say it's essentially over. I think this is a very important step in the direction of trying to get back to some degree of normality, because this is something that everyone has had on their mind.”

“So, I wouldn't want to declare victory prematurely, but I'm saying this is clearly a step in the direction that we want to go,” he added.

According to the CDC, as of Friday, more than 118.9 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, accounting for 35.8% of the U.S. population.

Dr Fauci Dr. Anthony Fauci is pictured. Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN