Should Schools Reopen If Teachers Aren’t Yet Vaccinated? CDC Will Soon Weigh In

Should Schools Reopen If Teachers Aren’t Yet Vaccinated? CDC Will Soon Weigh In

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February 5, 20215:15 PM ET

Ayesha Rascoe at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley)


Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a White House briefing on the Biden administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Image from video/AP

The federal government plans to release new guidance next week about how to safely reopen schools in the midst of the pandemic — guidelines that could add new grist to a debate over whether schools should wait until teachers are vaccinated before requiring their return to the classroom.

As the U.S. has struggled to get the spread of the coronavirus under control, many schools have turned to virtual learning. President Biden has pledged to get most students back to in-person learning by the end of April, but there are questions about how to do so safely.

Some teachers’ organizations have pushed back against plans to restart in-person learning, arguing that teachers should be vaccinated first and that other safety measures must be in place.

CDC scientists published an article last week in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, that showed some schools were able to reopen safely by following safety precautions — but the article included a disclaimer that the conclusions “do not necessarily represent the official position” of the CDC.Article continues after sponsor message

The debate heated up this week after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said vaccinating teachers was not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.

The White House downplayed those remarks, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying that Walensky had been speaking “in her personal capacity” and saying there would be “official guidance” and “final guidance” on the issue.

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