This Is the One Place That Should Reopen First, Says Former FDC Chief

"You really can't restart the economy in a robust fashion," unless you first do this first, the doctor says.

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Scott Gottlieb, MD, the former FDA commissioner for the Trump Administration from 2017 until last spring, has become an authoritative voice on reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic. And now, he's cautioning officials and the American public that one particular thing has to happen before the economy can be restarted. "If you can't get children back into schools, you really can't restart the economy in a robust fashion," Gottlieb said during an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box on June 30, making clear that prioritizing reopening schools is the best path towards economic recovery.

The recent surge in COVID-19 infections in a number of southern and western states that reopened their economies earlier was the context of the conversation. When asked if schools would open in the fall, Gottlieb replied: "I think the schools in the south are going to get delayed. I don't think they are going to be able to restart the school year. Now, they could take an interim step right now and just delay it for a week or a month."

He then tied getting children back to school as a critical factor in restarting the U.S. economy cratered by the COVID-19 pandemic. "I would be prioritizing opening the schools," Gottlieb noted. "I would do what it takes from a policy standpoint to try and get the infection rate down enough to open the schools because that really is a gating factor."

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In mid-May, Anthony Fauci, MD, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that a return to school in the fall "would be a bit of a bridge too far," which earned a response from President Donald Trump, who said, "We have to get the schools open." By the end of the mouth, Fauci had changed his tune, saying, "There are certain states, cities, regions, counties in which the level of infection is at a rate that the schools can be much more flexible in how they open… [but] in other areas, it may be that it is really quite risky." And for more on the much-discussed return to school, check out 70 Percent of Doctors Say This Is When They'll Send Their Kids Back to School.

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