Director of the CDC says schools can safely reopen even if teachers are not vaccinated for the coronavirus.
As some teachers’ unions balk at resuming in-person instruction before teachers are inoculated, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says, “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.”
Walensky cited CDC data showing that social distancing and wearing a mask significantly reduce the spread of the virus in school settings.
She made the comments during a Wednesday morning briefing held by the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team.
Also during the press conference, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients called on Congress to pass additional funding to ensure schools have the resources necessary to support reopening.
President Joe Biden has pledged to ensure nearly all K-8 schools will reopen for in-person instruction in the first 100 days of his administration.
Teachers are prioritized as “essential workers” under the CDC’s vaccination plans, though many have yet to receive doses as the nation continues to face a supply shortage of the vaccine.
Additionally, Zients announced that the federal government is opening two coronavirus vaccination sites in East Oakland and East Los Angeles, two of the hardest-hit communities.
Zients said the sites will launch at the Oakland Coliseum and at California State University, Los Angeles. The facilities will be staffed primarily by officials from the Department of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Zients called those sites “just the beginning” of the Biden administration’s push to speed the pace of vaccinations, particularly in area suffering the brunt of illnesses and death.
Number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations going down
Walensky says coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to decrease, and the country appears to be a “consistent downward trajectory” in both areas.
“COVID-19 cases have declined steadily since hitting a peak on Jan. 8, dropping 13.4% to an average of nearly 144,000 cases per day from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1,” said Walensky. “Cases are now back to where they were before Thanksgiving.”
While deaths have continued to increase, Walensky says the pace appears to be slowing, with the average number of deaths increasing 1% to slightly more than 3,100 deaths per day from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1.
Walensky added that the decrease in the number of hospitalizations is giving her team hope that the number of deaths should begin to decrease in the coming weeks.
Even though these numbers are promising, Walensky said the U.S. case count is still far too high, about twice as high as the peak number during the summer surge. She also said the emerging variants, which have shown to be more transmissible, threaten to reverse these downward trends.