Former White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and teachers union boss Randi Weingarten are furiously trying to rewrite history on their role in promoting the disastrous school lockdowns that paralyzed the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic and left a generation of children behind.
“Show me a school that I shut down and show me a factory that I shut down. Never. I never did,” Fauci told New York Times Magazine last month. “I gave a public health recommendation that echoed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation, and people made a decision based on that. But I never criticized the people who had to make the decisions one way or the other.”
“We wanted to be in school. I’ve said that over and over again today,” Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the nation’s most powerful teachers unions, said during her congressional testimony about the school lockdowns last week.
But history shows that both Fauci and Weingarten vehemently pushed for COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions that led to prolonged school closures across the country.
At the start of the pandemic, Fauci, then-director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), expressed outright support for a federal lockdown to contain the virus.
“Whatever it takes,” he told CNN on March 15, 2020.
Just one week earlier, Fauci said there was “no reason to be walking around with a mask,” and that wearing one could even make people sicker, because it causes them to touch their face more frequently. He and the CDC reversed course within weeks and started pushing universal mask mandates for everyone age 2 and older.
A study released this January found that that widespread masking may have done little to nothing to curb the transmission of COVID-19, and myriad questions still remain about the negative impact that prolonged masking has had on children’s speech and social development.
Still, Fauci was featured in a PBS documentary this March saying he regretted not supporting mask mandates and quarantines sooner.
Masks weren’t the only reversal by the country’s public health experts. In March 2020, Fauci’s NIH published a study saying COVID-19 is “stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces.”
“Wash hands, avoid close contact, use a face covering, clean inanimate objects,” Fauci said in August 2020.
The CDC later determined the risk of surface transmission of COVID-19 was “low,” and Fauci admitted that wiping down groceries was unnecessary.
While some schools started reopening as early as August 2020, like in Florida, many local playgrounds remained closed for over a year due to the inanimate object theory. It wasn’t until April 2021 that the CDC said sunlight and weather factors could destroy the virus on outdoor surfaces.
In the summer of 2020, Fauci and the CDC insisted children needed to remain six feet apart in order to prevent the virus’ spread, making in-person learning near impossible.
“The minimal thing that you should do is the kind of things that we’ve been talking about constantly: wearing a mask, maintaining six feet of distance, avoiding crowds,” Fauci said at the time.
The 6-feet standard became one of the largest hurdles schools faced as they struggled to reopen to in-person learning in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines in the spring of 2021.
On March 10, 2021, a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that there was no significant difference in coronavirus spreading in schools where there were six feet of distancing versus three feet of distancing.
Fauci said he supported the study, and days later, the CDC’s guidance was reduced to three feet.
In August 2021, Fauci endorsed vaccine mandates for school children, teachers and school staff, in addition to the mask mandates. During a White House press briefing, he stood alongside CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky as she slammed schools in states like Florida for reopening without implementing mask and vaccine mandates for staff and students.
Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper at the time: “I have been of this opinion, and I remain of that opinion, that I do believe at the local level, Jake, there should be more mandates.”
Despite Fauci’s support for mandates, there is still no definitive evidence that current COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus. Further, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined in March that healthy children between 6 months and 17 years old don’t need the vaccine at all.
While the science surrounding COVID-19 remains ever-changing, Fauci routinely demonized those who questioned his assumptions and created an environment where conflicting ideals were dismissed as conspiracies.
“It’s very dangerous,” Fauci told MSNBC in June 2021. “A lot of what you’re seeing as attacks on me quite frankly are attacks on science, because all of the things that I have spoken about consistently from the very beginning, have been fundamentally based on science.”
“Misinformation and disinformation is really hurting so many things, including people’s trust in science,” he complained in December.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat whose restrictive COVID-19 policies were routinely cheered by Fauci, went so far as to sign a law punishing doctors who espoused alleged “misinformation or disinformation” related to COVID-19 that was not in line with the mainstream. A federal judge blocked the law in January following a pair of lawsuits challenging it on free speech grounds.
Fauci worked closely with teachers unions in 2021 in an attempt to fulfill President Biden’s promise to reopen “most” schools in his first 100 days in office.
Fauci and Weingarten argued at the time that billions in funding through the America Rescue Plan would give the teachers the resources they need to get school open safely.
Fauci said during a teachers union event in January 2021 that he had a “personal interest” in keeping teachers safe because his daughter was teaching 3rd-grade science at the time.
“We need the CDC guidance,” Weingarten said at the event. “We need these rapid tests, we need to make sure we have the accommodations and the vaccine. I hear that a lot.”
But even after the American Rescue Plan passed in March, without any Republican support, Weingarten demanded billions more in order in order for teachers to return to the classroom safely.
Weingarten’s pandemic response came to the forefront last week after she appeared before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic to address her union’s role in influencing public policy on school lockdowns.
“Republicans on the House Covid subcommittee want you to think I wanted to keep schools closed. Here’s what I actually said… over & over again,” Weingarten tweeted after the hearing.
Fox News Digital previously reported that the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) were discovered to have corresponded with the CDC in 2021 to make last-minute changes to school reopening guidance, which included a phased reopening approach for K-12 schools based on coronavirus cases in the area.
The New York Post further reported last week that the AFT was even more deeply involved than previously understood, with Weingarten holding two phone calls with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in the week prior to the guidance’s release.
Communications previously obtained by the New York Post through a Freedom of Information Act request by conservative group Americans for Public Trust showed numerous emails between top CDC officials and the AFT just days before the Biden administration released the school reopening guidelines in February 2021. The lobbying efforts were a reported success, as the Post found at least two instances when “suggestions” were used nearly word-for-word within the CDC’s guidelines.
The CDC had been prepared to allow in-school instruction regardless of transmission rates, but at the suggestion of the union, the guidelines were adjusted to include a provision that said, “In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.”
The union further requested that teachers be granted remote work access for those “who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk.” Similar provisions were included for “staff who have a household member” that is considered high risk to the virus.
Emails reviewed by Fox News Digital showed that the AFT and the NEA also received a copy of the guidance before the CDC released it to the public.
Responding to the backlash over the correspondence, Weingarten suggested it was routine procedure.
“This is normal rulemaking, frankly,” she told C-SPAN in May 2021. “This is what every administration used to do. The problem with the last administration is that they didn’t do it.”
In the video Weingarten tweeted last week in an attempt to prove she supported reopening schools, Weingarten repeatedly says in a number of news clips, “We want schools to reopen.” What she left out of the video is that her union was demanding a wide range of mitigation requirements at the time, like 6-foot physical distancing, contact tracing, retrofitted ventilation systems, and that schools only reopen in places where the government had the authority to “trigger” school closures in the event of an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“There’s no way that you’re going to have full-time schools for all the kids and all the teachers the way we used to have it,” Weingarten said in July 2020.
At the time, Weingarten slammed the Trump administration’s guidelines to reopen schools by fall 2020 as “reckless,” “callous” and “cruel.” She later called on Congress for more federal funding for schools and threatened a strike if they reopened without implementing her union’s demands.
While many school districts across the country, like in Florida, reopened for the Fall of 2020, Weingarten was advocating for improving remote learning.
“We have an obligation to make remote better, because until we can really decrease community spread throughout the United States, distance learning and distance working is going to be a fact of life,” she said in August 2020.
In July 2021, Weingarten said “millions” would die from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic, but she later walked back her claim.
Weingarten signaled the potential for future school lockdowns as recently as January 2022, tweeting, “There are very real logistical decisions schools are making. We know kids do better in person, but the spike is real. We need adequate staff & the safety measures in place including testing, masking ventilation. There is a lot of stress.”
Weingarten’s tweet came on the heels of her announcement on CNN that she “personally” supported mandating the vaccine for school children five and older.
Weingarten testified last week that President Biden’s transition team was the first to contact her union for guidance on school closures during the pandemic, not the CDC.
“Did the AFT first engage the CDC or did the CDC reach out to you?” Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, asked the union leader.
“So what essentially happened, sir, was that we were talking to the Biden transition team before he was sworn into office,” Weingarten responded.
“Did they reach out to you or the CDC?” Wenstrup asked.
“The Biden transition team reached out to us,” Weingarten reiterated.
School closures in the U.S. have had a devastating impact on children’s mental health, development and future earnings potential. According to data released last year by the National Center for Education Statistics, 70% of U.S. public schools have reported an increase in students seeking mental health services since the start of the pandemic. A study published by the conservative think tank Just Facts reported that the mental stressors brought about by school closures will destroy seven times more years of life than lockdowns saved.
A study by the American Enterprise Institute also found that nearly 1.3 million students have left public schools since the pandemic began, and schools that stayed remote longer saw even more students leave. The World Bank reported that the school closures will cost this generation of students $21 trillion in earnings over their lifetimes, which is far more than the $17 trillion estimated in 2021.
A working paper first released in October 2020, which examined over 10,000 school districts across the country and their reopening plans, found that partisan politics and teachers union strength in a particular area had far more influence on schools reopening than science or local health guidance.
Despite the numerous studies saying school closures had catastrophic effects on one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations, the leaders responsible for the lockdowns have not been recalled or fired in the more than three years since the pandemic struck.
Weingarten was reelected to serve an eighth term last year at AFT’s convention in Boston.
Fauci now does the media rounds defending his pandemic response after stepping down as Biden’s chief medical advisor in December.
Fauci told Fox News in August that he still doesn’t believe the lockdowns went too far.
“Well, I don’t think it’s forever irreparably damaged anyone,” he said, adding, “People selectively … pull things out about me.”