Top White House COVID-19 Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci recently changed his prior position and recommended that we keep schools open (while also advising the nation to close bars back down).
“Obviously, you don’t have one size fits all, but as I said in the past and as you accurately quoted me, the default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school or to keep them back at school,” Fauci said. “The best way to ensure the safety of our children in school is to get the community level of spread low.”
In the same interview, Fauci noted that the spread of the disease among school children has remained incredibly low throughout the pandemic.
“If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not very big at all,” Fauci added. “Not like one would have suspected.”
Fauci is correct. Schools have certainly not proven to be the hotbeds for the virus that many warned of this summer.
Two international studies have found no relationship between in-person K-12 learning and the spread of COVID-19. And another study, this one from the United States, found that childcare workers have experienced no greater risk of infection either.
These data, coupled with anecdotal evidence gathered from more than 2,000 schools across the nation, have led many health experts and pediatricians to warn of the risks of keeping schools closed, expressing concerns that the unintended consequences may be outweighing the threat of the virus.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement that:
“All policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school…. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.”
When families are able to homeschool their children or choose the private or public school that’s right for them, they thrive. However, when you take those options away and force all families into remote distance learning, the many kids for whom this isn’t the right fit suffer. Since the vast majority of districts have not passed school choice programs, most families have been left in a bind this year—paying for public schools they often cannot use or whose new models do not work for their children. The consequences include the risks of mental health problems, hunger, missing routine exercise, lack of medical care, child abuse in the home, and the loss of education.
Other research shows that kids are indeed beginning to fall significantly behind in math scores and modestly behind in some other proficiencies such as reading. This is especially troubling news as American children already lag in international proficiency scoring.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report suggesting that the social isolation caused by COVID-19 and ongoing government lockdowns is taking a toll on children’s mental health.
All of that to say, Fauci’s new recommendations will come as welcomed news to millions of people who have been negatively impacted by private and public school closures, while being left with few or no alternatives.
Parents have been unable to work a regular schedule. Women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic as a whole, but especially by school shutdowns as the brunt of childcare falls to them. In September alone, 865,000 women dropped out of the workforce, a number four times higher than that of men.
Businesses have struggled to provide flexible work schedules for impacted parents. And childcare providers have been met with uncertainty and a constantly changing landscape of regulations as they work to tailor curriculum to virtual environments, keep children physically distanced, and implement other new policies, like mask-wearing, for their pupils.
But while Fauci is currently correct in his findings and recommendations, he is incorrect when he asserts that this has been his consistent position. In reality, his newfound mentality is at least six months behind the curve, and there were many others who told him as much as far back as this summer. Notably, Senator Rand Paul, a doctor himself, took the correct position many months ago.
Didn't @RandPaul point this out to Fauci like 4 months ago and media got all hysterical?
Fauci: “Look at the data, the spread from children and among children is not very big at all, not like one would have suspected” pic.twitter.com/TDvz3bzqzN
— Jon Miltimore (@miltimore79) November 29, 2020
Fauci and Paul sparred over the question of whether schools should reopen back in May of this year, leading to countless online attacks against Senator Paul by many prominent progressives.
I can't believe I live in a country where the nation's leading infectious disease expert has to explain to a Senator that we "really out to be very careful…when it comes to children." https://t.co/0cjCbwGAki
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) May 12, 2020
Honestly impressed by Rand Paul's commitment to being a gigantic piece of shit literally all the time
— Jason (@longwall26) May 12, 2020
Still team Rand Paul’s neighbor.
— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) May 12, 2020
What did Paul do to deserve such visceral attacks? He merely pointed out the same science Fauci is now hanging his hat on.
“There’s a great deal of evidence that’s actually good—good evidence—that kids aren’t transmitting this—it’s rare—and that kids are staying healthy, and that yes we can open our schools,” Paul stated during a committee hearing.
While Fauci has maintained all along that the goal should be for children to return to schools, he previously issued much more cautious recommendations. He suggested some schools remain closed and pushed for a heavier handed approach from the federal government when it came to deciding protocols for reopening schools. At that time, he also indicated that children could spread the disease as easily as adults.
Fauci’s change in position has led many, including right-wing Twitter commentator Jack Posobiec, to call for apologies to Rand Paul, which wouldn’t be the first time the senator has been owed one by the establishment.
No, he owes one to every single parent and school-age child in America. https://t.co/bOieJhtuqJ
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) November 29, 2020
As per usual, Paul is right. Dr. Fauci does owe an apology to the American people. But his mistake is one of arrogance, not malice—and it’s one we see repeated over and over again by the adherents of central planning.
F.A. Hayek once famously said, “The more the state ‘plans’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”
Central planning fails and wreaks havoc on the individuals in a country because of the knowledge problem. The knowledge problem refers to a concept developed by Hayek in his work “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” It’s actually a pretty simple economic concept that holds that central planners cannot possibly possess all of the information they need to successfully direct the lives of others—especially given the need for rapid adaptation in response to changing circumstances.
Such has been the case with Fauci and many others in our government as they seek to combat the coronavirus. They overestimate their abilities, presume they know more than they do, and seek to tell others from afar how to best respond to their rapidly changing environment. It hasn’t worked, and it never will, and the reasons for this trace their way back to the knowledge problem.
Dr. Fauci, and many of our other political leaders, have issued incorrect information, overstepped their constitutional boundaries, and often amplified the negative impacts of the coronavirus. Instead of recognizing their own limitations in the face of a virus, they’ve instead doubled down on their authority and continued to try and control the minute details of people’s lives. This has caused chaos, often needlessly, and it has placed undue hardships on individual Americans who are attempting to do the right things and rebuild their lives.
Fauci’s new recommendations ought to come with a dose of humility and a recognition that the government, and even very smart scientists working within it, cannot centrally plan their way out of an unprecedented pandemic and crisis. Instead, Americans should be given the best, most up-to-date information available and allowed to decide for themselves what the best path forward is for their family and their community.
Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer, commentator, and activist. She’s a Newsmax Insider and a Contributor to The Washington Examiner.
EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. All rights reserved.