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Former FDA commissioner suggests Delta variant should force reconsideration of school safety measures

The Delta coronavirus variant should change the way we approach COVID-19 mitigation efforts in schools, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb suggested during Sunday's edition of Face the Nation on CBS.

Although lower risk than other situations, schools weren't "inherently safe" even before Delta became the dominant variant in the United States. But now that the more transmissible strain is here, it's a bad time to get rid of precautionary measures like masks, testing, or podding students, Gottlieb said. If those aren't in place, especially in areas with a lot of infection, "we can expect a different result" from earlier waves, when outbreaks were generally suppressed in schools. 

Additionally, Gottlieb said there are still a lot of unknowns about Delta, including whether it causes more serious illness. That's a worry since kids under the age of 12, though generally much less susceptible to COVID-19, aren't eligible for vaccination yet. "I can't think of a business right now that would put 30 unvaccinated people in a confined space without masks and keep them there for the whole day," Gottlieb said. "No business would do that responsibly and yet that's what we're gonna be doing in some schools. So, I think we need to enter the school year with a degree of humility and prudence."