WASHINGTON -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said he supports a COVID-19 vaccine for American educators.
"I'm going to upset some people on this, but I think we should," he said Tuesday on MSNBC when asked if COVID-19 shots should be required for teachers. "We've had 600,000-plus deaths, and we are in a major surge now as we're going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business."
Fauci's comments come after Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers union, said on Sunday that she personally supports a vaccine mandate for educators.
"As a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers - not opposing them on vaccine mandates," said Weingarten, who estimated about 90% of AFT members are already vaccinated.
Public health experts and state officials are raising alarms about a surge in COVID hospitalizations among children -- now at their steepest and seeing the most significant increase since the onset of the pandemic.
In a newly released weekly report, which compiles state-by-state data on COVID-19 cases among children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children's Hospital Association (CHA) found that nearly 94,000 new child COVID-19 cases were reported last week, a continued "substantial" increase.
Fauci, who is President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said "mandates at the local level need to be done" to help curb the spread of the virus.
"I hope - I don't predict - I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it's within the month of August," Fauci said of FDA approval of the vaccine. "If that's the case, you're going to see the empowerment of local enterprises, giving mandates that could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety and I strongly support that. The time has come. ... We've got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated."
This story combines reporting from the Associated Press and ABC News.