If you want proof that Anthony Fauci has no idea the damage caused by the pandemic lockdown policies he’s been advocating, here it is: Fox News’ Neil Cavuto asked him this week if he regrets the shutdowns of schools that kept kids out of class and “forever damaged them,” Fauci replied, “I don’t think it ever irreparably damaged anyone.
His ignorance and lack of remorse are astounding. “Children fell way behind in school during the first year of the pandemic and haven’t caught up,” writes David Leonhardt of The New York Times. A study by Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research found that students who stayed home for most of 2020-21 lost the equivalent of about 50% of a school year’s math learning typical. Black and Hispanic students, as well as students in schools with high poverty rates, were disproportionately damaged. A 2021 McKinsey & Company study found majority black schools were six months behind in math and reading. A March Brookings study found that test score gaps between low- and high-poverty elementary school students increased by about 20% in math and 15% in reading during the 2020 school year- 2021. Curriculum Associates found that schools serving the majority of black and Latino students reported “nearly twice the amount of unfinished learning” in third-grade reading and math than schools where the majority of students were white.
This damage is irreparable: if children do not learn to read and do basic mathematics, they cannot perform the expected work in later years and will fall further and further behind. Cumulative learning losses, McKinsey noted, could reduce student lifetime earnings by $49,000 to $61,000. And a study by professors from Yale, Northwestern, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Amsterdam predicts that “a year of school closures will cost ninth-graders in poorer communities a decrease 25% of their post-school earning potential”.
No serious person disputes the irreparable damage of school closures – except Fauci. The American Academy of Pediatrics last October declared a pandemic-induced national state of emergency for children’s mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls aged 12 to 17 increased by 51% between the start of 2019 and the same period of 2021.
Fauci told Fox News he was “one of the people who said we have to do everything we can to get the kids back to school.” But in 2020 he advocated for nationwide school closures and criticized Republican governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis who resisted them, warning that if “you don’t have very good control over a epidemic and you allow children together, they will probably be infected. That summer, when pupils were supposed to return for the 2020-2021 school year, he insisted that while the ‘default position’ should be to open schools, it should apply to students from areas where transmission was low, while those from higher schools. risk areas should always be hybrid or virtual learning. Yet, according to economist Emily Oster of Brown University, we’ve known for some time that schools aren’t superspreaders, even in high-risk areas. Fauci’s warnings gave teachers’ unions an excuse to resist a return to in-person learning and ultimately kept millions of children out of the classroom.
Moreover, the school closures were rooted in the failure of the public health establishment – which Fauci helped lead – to recognize that children were the least vulnerable to covid. Schools have been closed because children are usually the most vulnerable to contagion. But we now know that covid is generally no more dangerous for children than a typical flu. A 2021 German study found no deaths from covid among healthy 5-17 year olds from March 2020 to May 2021. Zero. Far from being vectors of transmission, schools were among the safest places in some areas, as the rate of covid cases for students and staff in schools was lower than in the community.
School closures were just one element of Fauci’s disastrous pandemic leadership. From January to March 2020, Fauci falsely assured us that the virus was not spreading in the United States when, in fact, it was spreading like wildfire. Then he told us not to weaken the masks because “people keep playing with the mask and touching their face” which could make them sick. A few months later, he admitted he said that because “masks were very scarce” – and he wanted to save them for healthcare workers. His tenure has encompassed catastrophic failures to detect, test and mask, and he has championed lockdown policies that have had little or no effect on covid-19-related mortality, but imposed enormous economic and social costs that we are still paying to this day.
Never has anyone who has been so wrong for so long been so revered as Anthony Fauci.
Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.