Schools in the U.S. should fully reopen to in-person learning in the fall and allow vaccinated teachers and students to not wear masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stated in February that schools could safely reopen for in-person learning even if teachers and students haven’t been vaccinated, but President Joe Biden’s White House quickly walked back the statement. The CDC is now urging schools to reopen in the fall “regardless of whether all of the prevention strategies can be implemented at the school.”
The CDC does recommend physical distancing and masking for students and teachers who are not vaccinated, however.
Breaking News: The CDC will urge schools to fully reopen, even if they can’t follow all safety steps, and to use local virus data to guide prevention methods. https://t.co/lQvGUhyMT4
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 9, 2021
When Walensky said much the same in February, White House press secretary Jen Psaki distanced the administration from her comments.
“The president — let me be crystal clear — wants schools to open,” Psaki said during a Feb. 4 press briefing. “He wants them to stay open. And he wants to do that safely. And he wants health and medical experts to be the guides for how we should do exactly that.”
“Dr. Walensky spoke to this in her personal capacity,” Psaki continued. “Obviously, she’s the head of the CDC, but we’re going to wait for the final guidance to come out so we can use that as a guide for schools around the country.”
Biden’s goal was to reopen “most” schools to in-person learning within his first 100 days in office, which the administration did not reach. Biden and the rest of his administration appeared to repeatedly contradict one another on which schools they wanted to open and what constituted reopening.
Psaki said Feb. 10 that the administration would consider a school “open” if it held in-person classes “at least” one day per week. Biden later called that statement “a mistake in communication” and said his administration is working to reopen schools in-person five days a week.