Fauci says it's 'risky' to 'take masks off the kids'

Fauci warns against dropping masks in public schools

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White House chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke with CNN on Thursday about masks in schools, saying that moves to lift mandates on children may be premature and "risky."

"It’s understandable why people want to take masks off the kids. But, right now, given the level of activity that we have, it is risky," Fauci said.

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"Now we could get lucky, cause the trajectory right now is going way down," Fauci added. "And it very well may be that if you take masks off of kids in the next week or so, it's going to keep going down. But you have to be careful."

Kindergartners wear masks while listening to their teacher at Washington Elementary School on Jan. 12, 2022, in Lynwood, California.

Kindergartners wear masks while listening to their teacher at Washington Elementary School on Jan. 12, 2022, in Lynwood, California. (P Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Research has shown that masks may have negative impacts on children's social abilities. The CDC's insistence on pushing masks in schools, meanwhile, has been criticized for relying too heavily on flawed studies. 

Fauci's comments come as states across the country repeal the increasingly unpopular mask mandates in public schools. Other states, such as Pennsylvania, have become embroiled in legal battles over the continued mask requirements.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court struck down a statewide school mask mandate supported by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Acting State Health Secretary Alison Beam Friday.

The court declared that Beam, who stepped into the role after former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine moved on to the Biden administration, did not have the power to mandate that students mask up in school, according to Harrisburg's PennLIVE.

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Fauci on Wednesday said future requirements for additional boosters or shots are being monitored, just days after he suggested that annual COVID-19 booster shots may not be needed for every American.

A student wears a mask and face shield in a fourth-grade class at Washington Elementary School on Jan. 12, 2022, in Lynwood, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

A student wears a mask and face shield in a fourth-grade class at Washington Elementary School on Jan. 12, 2022, in Lynwood, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

"The potential future requirement for an additional boost or a fourth shot for mRNA or a third shot for J&J is being very carefully monitored in real time. And recommendations, if needed, will be updated according to the data as it evolves," Fauci said during a press briefing by the White House COVID-19 response team. 

Fauci showed hospitalization data he said indicated booster shots are "safe and well-tolerated." He cited multiple studies of vaccine effectiveness which showed that, for those with a normal immune response, "a single booster shot continues to provide high levels of protection against severe disease caused by omicron." 

Fox News's David Aaro contributed to this report.