President Joe Biden said Friday that schools should “probably all be open” in the fall. Appearing on NBC News Today, he claimed this decision will be made “based on science and the CDC.”
“There’s not overwhelming evidence that there’s much of a transmission among these young people,” Biden continued.
Teachers unions, particularly those in major coastal cities, have resisted reopening schools for much of the 2020-21 school year, refusing to return teachers to classrooms until a variety of demands, some of which are not directly related to COVID, have been met. Meanwhile, a number of red states such as Florida have had in-person learning for the year’s entirety and have not experienced a corresponding increase in COVID cases or deaths.
The White House has been reluctant to question the teachers union, even as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have come out in favor of reopening classrooms.
The Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine is available for people 16 and older, and Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines has been approved for emergency use for people 18 and older. Pfizer’s version is still being tested for people aged 12-to-15, although the company disclosed that a Phase 3 trial determined it to be safe and effective for that demographic. Pfizer is testing to expand the inoculation to children ages 6 months to 11 years old.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, has set expectations that children won’t be eligible or advised to receive a vaccine until 2022. However, Fauci has clarified that younger kids can resume in-person classroom instruction “without necessarily having everyone vaccinated, all the teachers all the students.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an “operational strategy” guide for K-12 schools earlier this year, which now stipulates that schools can safely reopen with social distancing of 3 feet between students and the condition of universal mask use.
The organization specified that areas with high COVID transmission rates should enforce 6 feet of space among middle school and high school students “if cohorting is not possible.”
“This recommendation is because COVID-19 transmission dynamics are different in older students – that is, they are more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and spread it than younger children,” the agency wrote.
Biden’s announcement comes shortly after the CDC released update guidance relaxing mask mandates for vaccinated individuals in indoor and outdoor settings. Fauci and other officials hope that the easing of restrictions will incentivize and encourage Americans who have so far abstained to receive the vaccine.