It makes me laugh how Biden’s medical brain trust continues to undermine the negotiating position of the teachers’ unions. Last week, when Biden was taking fire for not standing up to the unions more forcefully, Fauci went on TV to remind everyone that schools are pretty darned safe. In fact, children are less likely to get infected inside a school building than outside of it.
Today it was new CDC director Rochelle Walensky’s turn. One of the debates raging over reopening schools is whether we should prioritize teachers for vaccination so that they’ll be safe when they go back to class. Um, you don’t need to do that, said Walensky. Schools can be safe even for adults who aren’t immune.
All we need now is for the new surgeon general to say “No, seriously, open the schools” for the trifecta.
— Greg Tomlin 💬 (@TomlinMedia) February 3, 2021
The White House is already busy cleaning up Walensky’s comments to make them more union-friendly. She didn’t say schools can safely reopen now, they pointed out afterward. What she meant was that they can safely reopen without staff being vaccinated if Congress passes Biden’s COVID relief package and gets schools the equipment and resources they’re requesting. That’s what the unions want. But even the redacted version of Walensky’s comments is useful: Inevitably, once the COVID money is dished out, unions will begin moving the goalposts to insist that they simply couldn’t imagine returning to class until all teachers have been vaccinated. Having the head of the CDC on record this way will make that claim much less comfortable for them.
Hating the unions for locking kids out of in-class instruction isn’t a strictly partisan issue either. Look who’s urging Biden to cowboy up and get tough with recalcitrant teachers:
“It’s time for Joe Biden to stand up and say ‘kids are the most important things.’ Teachers are going to have to suck it up, stand up and provide an education,” [Mike] Bloomberg, who ran for president in the Democratic primary, told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday.
“The president has to stand up to the unions,” he continued.
To teachers who did not want to return to classrooms because they thought it was dangerous amid the pandemic, he argued incurring risk was par for the course.
“We have a lot of city, state and federal employees who run risks. That’s part of the job. You run risks to help America,” he said.
In a January 2021 paper, a team of Norwegian researchers traced more than 200 primary-school children ages 5 to 13 with COVID-19. They found no cases of secondary spread. The findings “demonstrate the limited role of children in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in school settings,” they wrote. Another study by researchers at Duke University of 35 North Carolina school districts with in-person teaching found no cases of child-to-adult spread in schools. They concluded that typical mitigation policies, such as masking and physical distancing, are sufficient to prevent school outbreaks. “Our data indicate that schools can reopen safely,” they concluded, as long as such policies remain in place…
I don’t blame teachers for keeping schools closed yet. I blame the government and the media. Public communication about this disease has been horrendous, and the Trump White House was a fount of nonsense. Meanwhile, some journalists and professionals, in an attempt to fight back against Trump’s disinformation, leaned too heavily into COVID pessimism and clung to outdated fears about secondary spread among young kids. That’s made a lot of people unnecessarily concerned that kids are silent vectors for this disease, and made teachers feel like they were being thrown to the wolves in a country that has failed in just about every pandemic test. If I were a teacher relying on information from the mainstream press—especially a teacher in a pandemic pod that included immunocompromised relatives—I might be pretty scared of going back to school.
Even the biggest and bluest state in the country finds itself at odds with teachers’ unions because of their obstinacy in refusing to accept some risk to get kids back on track with their educations. In lieu of an exit question, read George Will’s new column counting the unions and COVID as the two great afflictions of the U.S. educational system right now. He asks a good question: Why is Biden pushing out money to make schools safer without first getting a commitment from labor that teachers *will* return to class en masse once the bill passes? Only a sucker would expect them to do so voluntarily without demanding further concessions. A guy who’s been in Washington for 50 years isn’t supposed to be a sucker.