Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that teachers don’t have to be vaccinated for schools to reopen safely.
During a White House press briefing, Dr. Walensky cited data showing that mitigation efforts like social distancing and mask-wearing significantly reduces the spread of the coronavirus in the classroom.
“I want to be very clear about schools, which is: Yes, [the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] has put teachers in the 1b category, the category of essential workers,” she said, according to a White House transcript. “But I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.
“So while we are implementing the criteria of the Advisory Committee and of the state and local guidances to get vaccination across these eligible communities, I would also say that safe reopening of schools is not — that vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” she added.
Dr. Walensky’s comments come amid intensifying criticism of teachers unions across the country that have refused to return to in-person teaching, arguing that vaccinations for teachers and increased funding are essential for returning to the classroom.
During the briefing, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients called on Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan to bring additional funding to schools.
“President Biden has been very clear that he wants schools to reopen and actually to stay open,” he said, according to the transcript. “And that means that every school has the equipment and the resources to open safely — not just private schools or schools in wealthy areas, but all schools. And that’s why we need the American Rescue Plan passed now. It includes money to get schools better access to testing, enables smaller class sizes, acquire the necessary ventilation, ensure everyone has PPE, and that schools are properly sanitized. It also includes much-needed funds to support the learning and social, emotional needs of our kids in what has been an extremely, extremely difficult year.”
• This story is based in part on wire reports.