White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned parents sending kids back to school that children over 9 years old can spread the coronavirus as well as adults, saying that should be considered when deciding whether to reopen schools in the fall.
"It's been shown that children from 10 to 19 can transmit the virus to adults as well as adults can," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview Wednesday on MSNBC.
A recently published study in South Korea indicated that although kids under the age of 9 were less likely than adults to transmit the virus to their families, teenagers were at least as likely to transmit the disease as adults.
Members of the Infectious Disease Society of America have previously pointed to the study and warned against reopening schools in states where coronavirus cases are surging.
"The issue that we're facing is that we're in a big country, and it has significant differences where you are as to the level of virus," Fauci told MSNBC.
Fauci said there are negative consequences from keeping students at home — many depend on schools for meals — and districts should try the best they can to reopen. However, the main consideration should be the health and safety of the students, teachers and their families, he said.
Some areas of the country will have an easier time welcoming students back to school since the virus isn't spreading uncontrollably, he added. Areas with high levels of the virus may need to consider modifying their reopening plans, like moving some classes outdoors and adopting a hybrid of online and in-person instruction.
"When you get to the real hot zones, I think you're going to have to take a really good look and examine the advisability or not," he said. "What likely would happen is that you would have parents that don't want to send their children to school or you're going to have teachers that not going to want to be there."
Fauci again warned about a potential surge of Covid-19 cases brewing in states like Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana, which have reported an uptick in the so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive.
He said if they don't take further action to contain the spread of the virus, the states "that are not yet in trouble will likely get into trouble."
"It's very important to get ahead of the curve because what we're seeing now is what actually took place a couple of weeks ago, and what we're going to see a couple of weeks from now is what we're doing now," Fauci said.