Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that teachers do not have to be vaccinated in order for schools to reopen safely.
“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen,” she said during a Wednesday morning briefing held by the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team, Bloomberg reported.
“Safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” Walensky said.
Guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices categorizes teachers as essential workers, making them a priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Even though teachers are eligible, state criteria to receive the jab varies, and low vaccine supplies are a restraint on most communities.
Walensky cited CDC data that showed a significant reduction in the spread of COVID-19 in schools when practices such as social distancing and mask-wearing are enforced, according to The Associated Press.
Of the 191 cases that were confirmed among students and staff, only seven were tied to a spread at the school.
“Transmission risk within schools appeared low, suggesting that schools might be able to safely open with appropriate mitigation efforts in place,” the report read.
During the coronavirus briefing, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients called on Congress to ensure schools have additional funding to obtain the necessary resources to reopen safely, the AP reported.
President Joe Biden pledged to reopen nearly all K-8 schools in the first 100 days of his administration.
“There is little likelihood the low-income communities we serve, which have been hit hardest by the virus, will meet the proposed ‘Safe Schools for All’ COVID guidelines by February 1st,” Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner told his community on Jan. 25.
“Many experts say even March 1st is unlikely, given current health conditions. Sadly, COVID numbers remain at dangerously high levels in nearly every category — infections, hospitalizations and deaths.”
Walensky said Wednesday that coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the country appear to be in a “consistent downward trajectory.”
“COVID-19 cases have declined steadily since hitting a peak on Jan. 8, dropping 13.4 percent to an average of nearly 144,000 cases per day from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1,” she said.
The decrease in hospitalizations has given Walensky’s team hope that coronavirus deaths will begin to decrease in the coming weeks.
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