Dr. Fauci is open to more school shutdowns? You’ve got to be kidding me.

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If you have any little people in your life, chances are they’ve been sick lately. And we all know how much kids like sharing … their germs.

I had a lovely visit with my niece and nephew over Thanksgiving, but I’m afraid I’m still sniffling as a result.

And that’s completely normal. As temperatures get colder, and children are finally back to the classroom, sickness is going to result. It’s worse this year, too, given how long kids were kept at home during COVID-19 and not exposed to the usual flu and cold cycles. Many are experiencing it for the first time – or the first time in a long time.

As we’ve reached another holiday season, there are warnings of a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, flu and RSV, a respiratory illness that most affects children.

COVID, flu and RSV: What we wish we knew before our sons got caught in the 'tripledemic' hitting hospital care

That didn’t prepare me, however, for hearing what Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on “Face the Nation” recently.

'Not sure' if school should close again?

When host Margaret Brennan asked Fauci whether parents should expect schools to shut down again after the holidays, he said this:

“I don't know. Margaret, I’m not sure. When you talk about shutting down schools, there's always the … collateral issue. So you have to balance, and you do it in real time depending upon the viral load of disease in your region.”

I think I heard the collective gasp from parents – and students – who are still reeling from the consequences of school closures during the pandemic. And it’s not just academic shortfalls. Students suffered mentally, too.

Didn’t we learn anything the past three years?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says on Nov. 27, 2022, he was uncertain whether schools will need to close after the holidays because of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says on Nov. 27, 2022, he was uncertain whether schools will need to close after the holidays because of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Fauci’s comments seem especially tone deaf coming after numerous studies have shown just how damaging school shutdowns have been on America's children.

A recent study from Harvard and Dartmouth sought to monetize the damage from learning loss that children will suffer throughout their lifetimes. If the learning loss can’t be reversed – something that’s difficult to do, especially for the most at-risk kids – the impacted students will lose 1.6% in their career earnings, totaling $900 billion.

Now what? Nation's Report Card shows how badly we failed kids during pandemic. 

Similarly, this past week, The Washington Post had a story headlined, “The science on remote schooling is now clear. Here’s who it hurt most.”

It outlined the academic declines faced by America’s students. And guess what? It’s the schools that were closed the longest to in-person learning that fared the worst. That’s exactly what the national test scores released earlier this fall highlighted.

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Pay close attention to teachers unions

Perhaps Fauci is comfortable throwing out remarks like that given he’s leaving his post at the end of the year. But he should know better. His comments will be used by teachers unions and others who led the charge to keep schools closed during the height of COVID-19, and even after.

If you need any proof, later on the same day that Fauci made these comments, Randi Weingarten, the head of the powerful American Federation of Teachers, shared an article about the rise in infections, tweeting, “Our country is facing a tridemic: flu, RSV and COVID.”

And she also quoted a statistic about the number of pediatric hospital beds that are full.

Don't let them: Teachers unions want parents to forget what happened during COVID. 

In August, I asked Weingarten whether she regretted how long some school districts stayed closed – often the urban districts where children are already furthest behind – and the fact she didn’t advocate for an earlier opening.

Her regret was simply COVID itself – not how unions or anyone else responded to it.

So don’t be surprised if Weingarten tries to lead resistance to returning to school after the first of the year, if cases are still high. She has willing allies in Washington, D.C., including Biden.

Q&A with a teachers union leader: Attack on teachers 'never been as bad as right now'

USA TODAY columnist Ingrid Jacques
USA TODAY columnist Ingrid Jacques

Widespread school closures were one of the biggest mistakes in the country’s response to COVID, and the evidence couldn’t be more clear.

Raising the specter of doing it again is wildly irresponsible, and Fauci’s replacement must advocate for health without putting children in such unnecessary peril.

Ingrid Jacques is a columnist at USA TODAY. Contact her at ijacques@usatoday.com or on Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques 

More from Ingrid Jacques:

If Congress and Biden do ‘nothing’ for the next 2 years, the country will be better off

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fauci open to school closures for COVID, RSV? Have we learned nothing?