When Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, takes on his new role as chief physician to President-elect Biden, one of his top priorities will be to safely reopen schools and get teachers vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In a comprehensive interview with California State University Chancellor Tim White Friday, Fauci said he was optimistic about vaccinating most of the US population and reopening schools and campuses for personal tuition. (The full interview can be found here.)

“The only way to end this epidemic is to get 70% to 85% of the population vaccinated,” he said. “We could essentially end this outbreak in this country … It would be tragic to think that we now have vaccines on our hands that are 94% to 95% effective and that we are not getting as many people as possible to use them The.”

Fauci predicted that almost anyone can be vaccinated later this spring if key workers, people with underlying diseases and the elderly are vaccinated between now and March. Until April, “I would rather call this an open season in which anyone, including those who have no underlying diseases, can start vaccinating,” Fauci said.

Under these conditions, we could be in good shape by the fall of 2021, and I am cautiously optimistic that we can do so and return to some form of normalcy, he said.

White hosted Fauci at a virtual question and answer session for the 23 campus presidents. The event was broadcast live for the campus community and included questions from four CSU presidents.

Fauci said vaccine teachers need to be on the front lines.

“It is extremely important to get kids back to school and stay in school,” said Fauci. “The idea of ​​vaccinating teachers is a high priority. In addition to monitoring in schools so you can get a good feel for the infiltration of infections, which hopefully remain minor, we don’t have to shut down every time you get an infected student. “

On college campus, Fauci said the best examples of fighting the virus were universities that tested students before going back to dormitories between terms and doing “surveillance tests” on a certain number of students.

“We can get the students, the students, back on campus safely,” he said. “When we test appropriately and carefully and then do the surveillance tests. It’s just gotten easier because we have antigen tests available immediately that will give you a response in literally 15 minutes. Technology will help us get where we want to be. “

Although the situation in California may now be dire and the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the state is breaking new records, Fauci said he sees “the light at the end of the tunnel”.

As of December 18, California has 1,764,374 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which has resulted in 22,160 deaths. The number of ICU beds available across the state has decreased significantly, and hospitals in Southern California are not reporting beds.

But White also described this past week as “historic and long-awaited,” as Pfizer vaccinations were distributed across the country and Moderna vaccination was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration late Friday.

“For all the pain and suffering we’ve been through in the past 10 to 11 months, the impact of basic, basic and clinical research has led us to do something that is truly unprecedented,” said Fauci, referring to how quickly the vaccines were developing. “If we stay there, things will only get better if we roll out a vaccine in the coming months that will ultimately reverse and put this outbreak behind us.”

Fauci said one challenge he hopes the nation will overcome is getting the vaccine to blacks and Latinos in communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus and people who fear the vaccine from it convince them that they can trust science.

“I know we will have more vaccine candidates over the next few months that have shown safety and effectiveness,” said Fauci.

And with these additional vaccines going to be important, encouraging people from all walks of life to move forward and get vaccinated, he said.

White said Fauci could “count on Cal State’s 23 locations to be a strong voice for anyone to be vaccinated.” The university system was the first in the country to put face-to-face lessons online. However, earlier this month White announced that classes would resume in person through the fall semester of 2021.

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