“Based on science and the (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), they probably should all be open. There is no overwhelming evidence that there is a lot of transmission among these people, young people, ”Biden told NBC.
Biden has made reopening schools a priority since taking office, but stressed his administration would follow advice from scientific and medical experts on how to reopen safely. The administration has faced strong criticism from some parents who feel there is not enough urgency in efforts to reopen school buildings.
The president’s extensive Covid-19 economic relief law provided around $ 125 billion for public schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to help students return to class. Schools would be allowed to use this money to reduce class sizes, update their ventilation systems, help implement social distancing, purchase personal protective equipment and hire support staff. An additional $ 2.75 billion would go to private schools.
Biden said at a virtual summit on reopening schools hosted by the Department of Education last month that $ 81 billion of that funding would be released immediately. The money is unrelated to the reopening, which led to criticism from some Republicans who wanted to use the funds to provide more incentive to reopen.
The question of how and when to bring students and teachers back to class has been hotly debated since many schools across the country have switched to e-learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A complicating factor in the reopening of schools is that the Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States are only available for adults, with the exception of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, which is authorized for people aged 16 years. and more.
But results from clinical trials of Pfizer / BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine have shown that it is 100% effective in young people aged 12 to 15, and this group tolerates it well. Pfizer has asked the United States Food and Drug Administration to extend the emergency use authorization to include these ages.
CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky suggested in February that schools could safely reopen without teachers being vaccinated against Covid-19. The White House initially distanced itself from Walensky’s comments, as some teachers’ unions criticized Walensky’s comments, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki subsequently appeared to agree. Walensky and said vaccinations are just one part of several mitigating factors that will help schools reopen safely.
The CDC released long-awaited guidelines in February for the reopening of schools that focus on wearing masks, physical distancing, hand washing, cleaning of facilities and improving ventilation, as well as researching contacts, isolation and quarantine.
Last month, the CDC also made another recommendation that experts say would open more schools. The CDC relaxed its physical distance guidelines for children in schools to recommend that most students maintain at least three feet apart, instead of six feet.
Reports of low levels of coronavirus transmission at school have helped persuade the CDC to lower its distance guidelines for many schools from six feet to three feet. According to reports from Utah, Missouri and Florida, if students wore masks and followed other mitigation measures to reduce transmission, the six feet away didn’t matter.
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Madeline Holcombe and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.